Mar 28, 2008
Q: "What do you do when friends aren't saved?"
A: Wow! What a great question! This one is something that whole books are written about. In fact, there have been more books written throughout history about this question than would fill a really large library. The great thing about that is that there is no lack of information about it. The unfortunate thing for us is that some of those books were by people who are much, much smarter than I am. I will do my best to answer this question in a short space, because people will tune out if I go too long, but in the end I will recommend some books on the subject that have some really great things to say.
First of all, I must say that one thing I have been on a lifetime quest to do is to expunge (great word---look that one up :P) my vocabulary of words that only people who have been in church for most of their lives use. "Saved" is one of those words. If you ask someone who has never been in church if he is "saved" that person will probably first think that you are some religious nut and will make sure that you aren't going to hit them with your Bible, or baptize them when their back is turned. The second thing they will think is probably "I don't know? Was I in danger? Did someone just shoot at me?" Or maybe they'll think about that little disk icon at the top of their Microsoft Word window < (I love wingdings).
Now, I'm going to get a bit technical with y'all if you don't mind (this is extra-credit-the rest of you just go to the next paragraph). The word in the New Testament for "save" is swzw or "sotzo" (with long O's), and means basically "to bring safe and sound out of a difficult situation." This was the word you would use if the lifeguard did CPR on you and you lived, or if you were about to walk into traffic and someone grabbed you in time, or if you were making some really bad decisions in your life and someone helped you change your life around. All of these situations are "sotzo's."
When someone in church says "Are you saved," what they mean is "Has God rescued you safe and sound out of the difficult situation you've put yourself in because of your sin?" That is a mouthful, so people just say "saved," but that doesn't help when the people who we are talking to don't even know what we mean.
But, back to the question...what do we do when our friends don't have a relationship with Jesus? Well, there isn't some easy 3 step plan that will help rescue friends from the perilous situation they have put themselves in. But there is a good guide in the Bible.
First, we have to realize that God cares very deeply for those people. He doesn't think of them like we think of people who aren't in the "cool club" as being losers. Jesus told a story of a shepherd who is missing one sheep out of his flock of 100. This shepherd leaves all the other sheep to go look for the one that is missing. He searches all over, tirelessly, until he finds the one that is missing. Then he brings it back with great joy over finding his lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7). Why would a shepherd leave the 99 sheep to find the 1 missing one? Well, all we can be sure of is that this tells us that the shepherd loves that lost sheep greatly, and that that 1 lost sheep is the main thing on his mind. In this story the shepherd is God, and we are the sheep who have gone our own way sometimes. Your "unsaved" friend is that sheep. God loves him/her that much.
That means that we are supposed to love that person that much. You might be the only representative of God that your friend will ever know. That gets to my second point: one of the best ways to help your friend is just by being like Jesus to him/her in the best way you can. When we love someone sacrificially, so much that they begin to see that there is something inside of us that is so special they begin to want that inside of them too. When their world is full of bad words, violence, people using them, anger, and selfishness, having a friend who uses kind words, peace, giving-ness, gentleness, and selflessness, they can't help but be attracted to that. Isn't it sad that sometimes we (and I speak for myself too) are reasons why some people don't love Jesus instead of reasons that they do?
Finally, I must say this: It isn't enough just to act like Jesus, we have to be willing to speak the truth about who Jesus is and how He makes a difference in our lives when the opportunity is there. We can't be secret Christians. That doesn't mean we walk around acting like a TV preacher, or answer every question with "Well, the Bible says..." but we also have to be willing to talk about Jesus. That seems pretty scary at first. But if we refuse to do that, then we are hurting our friends. Not telling them is kind of like saying "Well, if I have to choose between helping your life and being cool, I'm going to choose to be cool." I don't know about you, but I'll be un-cool if it will change a friend's life for the better.
But, always remember, it ultimately is not your job to make your friends into Christians. That is between them and God. We can only speak the truth, and act like Jesus.
P.S. Look in the recommended books section of this website for some books that will help you with this topic.