You’ve met multiple times, done tons of talking, and discussed how the Bible addresses the struggles of life. There have been meetings for coffee, lunch appointments, quick breakfasts, and even a few late-night Waffle House trips. This person is your friend, your fellow Christian, and you’ve always been willing to meet and talk. You’ve been told that your friendship and counsel is a real blessing to this person.
However, you’re reaching the point of giving up. The talks have gone on and on, but there are zero signs of change. This person has the same problems, and most every step of forward progress has been met with two or three steps backward. Now, you are facing the struggle of considering whether or not you should continue spending (or wasting) time in this manner. Seriously, you wonder if wouldn’t be better for you to pour into a young Christian, and see them grow?
So…when is it okay to just be done? Can a Christian just decide enough is enough? The quick and easy answer is, “No.” But, there is also some ambiguity when it comes to defining what giving up means.
Matthew 10:14 is a verse often used to declare a Christian’s right to be done.
“And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”
Truth is, that verse is specifically referring to non-Christians who refuse to hear the gospel. This verse can’t be pulled out of context, and applied to Christians living in community together. Yes, it can be frustrating to your spirit when your friend seems to continually ignore the truth, but you can’t just pick a verse that you think gives you an out.
Our example for living this life is Jesus. Jesus modeled a life of self-sacrifice, infinite faithfulness, and ultimate love, and he tells us to love as he does.
Ephesians 4:2 says that we need to have all humility, gentleness, and patience, as we bear with one another in love. In 1st Peter 4:8, we’re told “above all, keep loving one another earnestly.”
1 Corinthians 13:7 gives some definition to love saying that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
So, as we are loving well and that love is enduring all things, we can “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” Galatians 6:9. This verse is not a promise that as long as we do not give up, everything will definitely work out with our friend, and that friend will turn from sin. But it does mean that we are to stay faithful to the work of living in biblical community with one another, and let God handle the change that needs to take place in a person.
“Not as involved in pursuing your friend is not the same as giving up.”
Once it is understood that there is no allowance for giving up on a fellow Christian, we can evaluate what level of leaning in we need to offer our friend. The level of involvement has to change based on level of response from your friend. When your friend is listening, studying, and trying to make changes, you’ve got to be all in. You can meet regularly, and be the supportive and encouraging friend…always speaking truth in love. As long as things are progressing, everything is good and on track.
Moving to the next level happens when that friend ceases to pour into changing, misses meetings, or doesn’t do the studying. The next level comes when your friend does the yoyo thing with you. They are serious for a time, then missing for a time, and seeming not to care. Then, they come calling, and you start the process all over again. While you will still pour in, and lean in to help them change, you will do so with a certain level of guard. This isn’t because you do not care as much, or are not serious about helping. It is because there is an important shift from you doing the pursuing. The friend is reaching out, and you are going to still be there to help.
The final level for me is when you make significant changes to the amount of availability you have for this friend. This means that you might meet when your friend calls, but you won’t enter into a regular meeting or counseling situation. Instead, you will wait and ask to see some commitment and consistency from your friend. If this is a serious time of wanting change, it will be an easy step for your friend. If not, then, you haven’t wasted any time, and have saved yourself opportunity for frustration.
Remember, this is a way of approaching a fellow Christian when you are having feelings of wanting to give up. The pervading thought should be, “I won’t give up because God has never given up on me.”