Some people hesitate to witness because they are afraid they will lose friends. Maybe they don’t know that witnessing is not an attempt to press someone into belief, but rather to announce something that applies to everybody and anybody.
When we say, All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” it is not a personal accusation against the person to whom we are speaking. It’s an acceptance of the condition of humanity. We, too, are included in that “all.”
If the hearer protests, “You’re telling me that if I don’t accept your religion, I’m going to hell,” the answer is, “The whole world is going to hell whether or not you accept what I’m telling you. Religion is very often a matter of opinion and personal choices. I’m talking about a Reality that is above and beyond any opinion that you or I might have.”
But suppose the person does not register your answer and continues to insist, “Are you saying that if I don’t accept your religion, I’m going to hell?” I usually ask, “Do you believe that hell exists?” Most Jews will say “No” or “Probably not.” In that case, I’ll ask, “Well, then, why should you be concerned about the hell that I believe in that doesn’t exist?”
In any case, it is always appropriate to tell your friend, “Please understand. I’m not trying to coerce you into believing what I believe. I’m trying to announce what I found to be true. Whether or not you believe it, I value our friendship.”
Some will still be fearful of losing the friendship because, frankly, there is no guarantee that your friend won’t take offense, no matter how gently you present the gospel. However, there is a spiritual/eternal way of seeing relationships. Ask yourself the question: Is it better to have a friend for a few short years on earth, or to try to build a friendship for all eternity?
If this life is all there is then it makes sense to protect what we have as much as possible. But I have to question the faith of people who are so uncertain about the gospel facts or the nature of eternal life that they are not willing to risk losing a friend here and now in order to obey God and commit our hearts to eternal matters.
I know that my opinion sounds harsh, but I have to ask another question of the person who does not witness for fear of losing a friend: “Has the serious nature of the gospel and of spiritual reality been settled in your own heart?”
Stop and think: people lose friends for a variety of reasons. Perhaps someone stopped seeing you because you didn’t think that a bar was a good place to socialize. Or maybe you were less than enthusiastic about your friend’s significant other? Or maybe someone thought you to be too political or too enthusiastic about some cause they couldn’t share.
Some friends will not find such differences off-putting, while others will lose interest in being friends as they discover they disagree with some of your interests and priorities. That is normal. Or did we allow ourselves the notion that everyone we meet should be our friend? If someone doesn’t particularly care to be or to remain our friend, it doesn’t mean that they become enemies.
Sometimes we forget that we’re supposed to be different from the world, and nothing reminds us of that separation unto God and from the world more than the act of witnessing. Remember, the meaning of the word “witness” is the same as the word “martyr.” We are to give up something as we give something better. What we give is the message of the possibility of great new life in Christ. What we give up (sometimes) is friendship with those who are offended by our belief that all people need Jesus.
Friends are often a gift from God. We should cherish them, while keeping our friendship with God — as well as our friends’ need to know Him — as our priority.