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Have you ever been cut off by a friend? I don’t mean moving away and slowly disconnecting. I am talking about a sharp, intentional separation, from friendship to…not. It’s happened to me three times in the past year.
I get it: I’ve become more vocal than ever in sharing honestly who I am, who I want to be, and what I believe. I am learning to be vulnerable, but that doesn’t make me invincible. The pain of losing a true friend cuts deep. In each situation, I lost a friend I had shared deep parts of my soul with– both past sins, current doubts, and future dreams. They were the kind of friends you’d lend money or drop everything to rescue from the side of the highway. Vacations with your families kind of friendships. And now they are over.
Why? One word I have grown to hate: theology. In each circumstance, these friendships ended because I’m willing to say I don’t know.
If you have answers to each of the above questions, and are able to defend your faith to the fullest, I must admit I’m jealous of you. Those of you who have a black and white faith make me green with envy sometimes. I have studied the Bible, read books and articles, and listened to podcasts and sermons, desiring to truly know what I believe. The more I studied, the more I realized God is pretty mysterious. I also realized I am not in a place where I feel comfortable speaking on God’s behalf.
Through the years, I have grown awfully skeptical of those who are willing to say, “Thus saith the Lord,” because after two years of ministry school, a decade of service, and a lifetime of following Jesus, I still have days when I don’t know what the hell God is saying.
I love the wisdom a mentor can bring, if that’s what I have signed up for. I also love to sit under great teachers of the faith, if that’s what I am choosing. But what I do not appreciate are friends who make it their mission to save me simply because our theology doesn’t line up on all points. I don’t like the feeling of another Christian deciding I still need to be saved.
Disagreement can teach us a great deal, when it’s done in a respectful way. I am trying, daily, to cultivate a life that invites relationships with people different from me. What I want now is for others to extend that same grace to me. Grace to be wrong. Grace to be uncertain. Grace to say, I don’t know.
Do we really have to agree on every point to acknowledge the salvation of the other? Do I really need to be saved just because I have gay friends?
Losing friends over theology that none of us fully understand is disappointing and frustrating, but denying my belief in a grace that is greater than I could ever fathom is not something I am willing to do. There’s grace for dreamers like me. And there’s grace for the friends who have walked away, in favor of a religion that fits in their box. There’s even grace for those whose don’t recognize their need for it. I’m so glad grace doesn’t cut off any of us, no matter our theology.
*Originally published on Venn Magazine.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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