Sharing faith can be risky business

So, I’ve got a friend coming to visit who has absolute faith in God. I expect we’ll spend some late nights discussing what and why we believe, and chat about where our paths in this life are leading us.

But whether we agree or not on faith, on God, on religion, I’m always up for such chats. Hopefully, they’ll help me understand what someone else thinks when it comes to spirituality. I’m interested in knowing how their faith affects their life.

It’s a touchy subject, for sure, sharing what you believe about heaven and hell and what difference does how we live today affect the afterlife.

I’m open for such talks. Others aren’t.

One of my best friends, a fellow runner, made it clear he did not want to discuss faith, God or anything on those lines with me, ever, and I’m not exactly what you would call a Bible thumper. The few times I did mention the Good Lord during our runs, his wall went up. He went from suddenly chatty to silent mode.

So this area, along with politics, is kept on the sidelines. We remain good friends. During our 20-mile Saturday morning runs, we’ve shared stories about our children, our wives, our goals, our work and our health. But “God” can’t pass my lips with this friend. He did, I should note, seem to relax more in correlation to the number of miles we ran. It was then I could put in a plug for President George Bush or Sarah Palin, and he would respond with a slight laugh.

I have another friend who always tells me about the things God is doing in his life. There have been times I nodded enthusiastically, asked questions and offered encouragement. There were times I thought, ‘Here we go again,’ and thought maybe he could just keep it to himself.

One of my sisters loves to talk Catholics, God and faith, in that order, and is interested in what others believe. Another sister doesn’t want to share and doesn’t want to hear anything about a higher power, unless it’s a heaven for dogs.

Over the years as a journalist, I’ve interviewed many pastors. Some, during the course of our talk, asked me what I believe, where I attend church. Others have not. Perhaps they were afraid they might offend me by raising the issue, thinking it might put me on the defensive. But I appreciate it when someone asks about what I believe.

I believe many people would discuss spiritual issues, but don’t because they fear they will be seen as judgemental. And you can, if you don’t have some grace and tact.

I hunted around online for some tips in this area and found a few that might help.

According to reachyourcity.com, here’s what to do:

• The easiest way to share your faith is to simply start with building relationships with nonbelievers right where you work and live. Begin by finding things to do with other nonbelievers that you both can enjoy. This may be working together, going to concerts or events together, or simply eating together.

“This is a long term process that may take years and even decades before a real convert is made,” the website says.

Makes sense. The way I see it, you’re not going to save someone’s soul from eternal damnation within a few minutes of saying “Hello, how are you?”

• Common sense says we have to care about someone before they’ll care what we have to say. For sure, it is difficult to spend long amounts of time with someone who believes differently than you politically and spiritually, the website says.

Actually, in my experience, it’s easy to spend time with someone who believes differently than you when it comes to politics and religion. Just don’t talk about it, at least not right away. The way you live speaks for itself more than any words.

But I’ve also learned this: if you do want to share your faith while running with a friend, I recommend not doing so until you’ve passed the 10-mile marker.

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