“You become like the five people you spend the most time with…” Jim Rohn, motivational speaker.
You’ve probably heard this phrase or different versions of it, but what does it mean if we apply it to evangelism? We are called to love people and invest in them, but even Jesus had boundaries when it came to His friendships and relationships. The term “boundaries” in relationships is a very modern term, but Jesus exercised the idea of boundaries very explicitly in His life.
Jesus had three close friends out of His twelve disciples, Peter, James, and John, who were included in more intimate moments with Jesus than the rest of the disciples (like the transfiguration in Matthew 17). Then He shared most of His day-to-day life with His twelve disciples.
Even with these boundaries, Jesus was still able to love people outside of His circle and lead them to salvation. Mark 2:14-17 shows us that Jesus would eat with sinners and tax collectors (who were hated by the Jews). He would purposefully pursue a relationship with them, like how He called out to Levi the tax collector to follow Him. The Pharisees did not understand why Jesus would spend time with sinners, but Jesus knew how to love everyone but at the same time have healthy and appropriate boundaries.
What having boundaries looks like…
There are different types of boundaries you need to set when you are evangelizing to your Muslim friends: time, financial, and emotional and spiritual boundaries.
Time boundaries- It is important to set apart time to invest in your Muslim friends, but it is equally as important to spend time with Christians who pour into you. Make sure that you are spending time with friends who love Jesus and live a life honoring to God so that their presence can encourage and motivate you to do the same. Then go out and be a witness and good friend to the Muslim in you life.
Financial boundaries- If your Muslim friends are refugees in your country or immigrants, they might experience a hard time finding a job and steady income. You may feel moved to help them financially, but it is best to do this by connecting them with resources, like your church, instead of directly giving them money. This protects your relationship from becoming transactional and allows you to stay friends. Once you start directly fulfilling their needs, it will be hard to stop and it may drain your relationship instead of helping it.
Emotional boundaries- You need to protect your heart in your relationship with your Muslim friend. If they offer any advice to you, test it with the Word of God– remember, they do not have the Holy Spirit’s influence when they are giving you advice. Sharing your struggles might not benefit your relationship at all, but if you do end up sharing your challenges with them, emphasize how you are relying on Jesus during it. You can be a safe outlet to listen to their worries and problems, but after you have listened to them and poured into them you need to lay their worries at the feet of Jesus in prayer instead of taking on the burden yourself.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.’” Matthew 10:16
Spiritual boundaries- There is spiritual connection with God attached to things like prayer or reading your Bible. In the same way, there is spiritual darkness attached to things of Islam. Pray before spending time with your Muslim friend and guard your heart when they pray or read the Quran so that the truth of the Bible rules over you and nothing else.
Your Muslim friend may want to share their beliefs with you in hopes of converting you to Islam. Muslims are hospitable and generally kind people, but do not let their “niceness” make you forget the truth – Islam is leading them astray and they need to know the truth of the Gospel. The reality is that someone can be kind and a good friend, but still be lost when it comes to knowing who God is and how to be in the right relationship with Him.
Proverbs about healthy friendships and boundaries
The Book of Proverbs is full of advice on being diligent about who you keep company with and what being a good friend looks like, and these are just a few examples!
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Even though we write blogs twice a week for you to refer to about being a good friend to your Muslim neighbor, the ultimate source of advice is the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Study God’s work diligently and you will learn how to truly love your Muslim friends while also staying true to your relationship with Jesus. Always seek God’s help and the Holy Spirit will give you discernment and protect your heart from anything that is not of God.
Prayer for your friendships
Dear Lord, thank you for the opportunity to be friends with my Muslim neighbor. I pray that as I talk to them, my faith in you is strengthened and that my heart, mind, and soul will never be led astray by what they say or do. Thank you for giving me your Holy Spirit to guide and protect me throughout my day-to-day life. Amen.