5 Things I’ve Learned from My Unbelieving Friends


Jennifer Case Cortez shares a few things she's learned from walking in friendship with those who believe differently than she does, and how Jesus is teaching her to love others in a better way.

One of my best friends is an atheist. I love Jesus in a crazy-all-of-my-heart kind of way, and she doesn’t believe there’s a God, much less a God who sent His Son to die for her.

So how exactly did our friendship happen?

A few years ago I looked around at my life and realized I didn’t have one single friend who wasn’t like me. I’m a stay-at-home mom who lives in a city with a church on every corner. In my town, we drive minivans with “Jesus is Lord” bumper stickers on the back window. All of that is well and good—wonderful in fact. Still, how could I share the good news of Jesus if everyone in my circle already knew Him?

So I asked the Lord to send me friends who didn’t know Him. I think He liked the idea, because He started answering that prayer right away. While driving around in my aforementioned minivan one afternoon, I heard someone on the radio say that if you want to share your faith, you should join a group that shares one of your interests. If you love softball, for example, you could join a community softball team. The idea is that you can build real relationships based on a common interest. Brilliant!

I asked the Lord to provide a group like this for me. I didn’t have any idea what it might look like. A laundry-folding group? A late-night nacho-eating group? I had no clue, but within a month, a friend of a friend invited me to join a writing group. Of course! One visit to the group, and it was settled. These were the friends God had sent me in answer to those two small prayers.

That was six years ago.

Since then, I have developed some of the sweetest friendships with women who are like me in some ways and completely different in others. Please understand that these women are not my “salvation projects;” they’re my friends. I’ve come to care about them deeply, and they care about me, too. I pray for them, live out my faith in front of them, and stumble and fall in front of them, too.

I’ve learned a few things about walking in friendship with those who believe differently since that first get-together I attended six years ago.

1.  I’m learning to think more deeply about what I believe and why my spiritual roots have grown deeper.

“[I]n your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you . . .” (1 Pet. 3:15a).

2.  I’m learning to defend my faith from a place of kindness rather than arrogance.

“. . . yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15b).

I measure my words carefully when I’m speaking to my friends. I don’t want to hurt them with my words, and I certainly don’t want to dishonor Christ by misrepresenting Him!

3.  I’m learning more about the importance of prayer.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).

Before meeting up with my writing friends, I pray that Christ will be honored in my words and actions. I pray often that each of them will come to know Christ personally and that the Holy Spirit will lead me in every conversation and interaction. I know I can’t navigate these waters on my own.

4.  I’m learning how to engage with a wider culture and think through social issues more carefully and biblically.
Most of my friends in this group have positions on social issues that are different than mine. I’m learning to listen to their positions carefully and bring my questions to the Lord in prayer. I weigh all of these matters in light of the Scripture. I also bring my questions to friends who are wiser than me and who have been walking with Jesus longer; they help me think through things more clearly than I could on my own.

5. I’m learning that everyone believes in something.
I really shouldn’t have called my friends “unbelieving.” Everyone puts her hope in something, maybe it’s politics or family or career or love or even religion. Yet in His kindness, God has shown us through His Word and Spirit that Jesus is our only true hope.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1–3).


Written by Jennifer Case Cortez

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