Friends: Do They Lead You to Christ?

Author: Mary Beth Bonacci


By Mary Beth Bonacci

It is He, Jesus Christ, the true life, who gives hope and purpose to our earthly existence, opens our minds and hearts to the goodness and beauty around us, to solidarity and friendship with our fellow human beings, to intimate communion with God Himself, in a love that goes beyond all limits of time and space, to unassailable happiness.

Remember when we talked about how good friendships can lead you to Christ? Today I want to talk about the flip side of that. What about friendships that lead you away from Christ? Can that happen?

As Christians, it's easy to want to be a good influence. We feel like we have something really great (eternal life, for starters) and we want to share it with other people, especially the people we care about. And that's a good thing. We weren't put here to "hide our light under a bushel basket," as Scripture says. We were meant to shine our light up on a hill, where people can see it. We're supposed to be examples of good Christians and to lead people to Christ.

And sometimes it really works. I'm sure that, as a result of knowing you, some people around you have re-evaluated their lives. I'm sure some have turned away from sin. Some know Christ better or pray more, because of you.

But sometimes it can work the other way. Sometimes friends, especially boyfriends or girlfriends, can lead us away from Christ while we're trying to lead them toward Christ. It's usually not a really blatant thing. You know you're a strong Christian and you know you're not going to stop believing in Christ. They couldn't convince you He doesn't exist or that He doesn't love you.

But ask yourself this -- how does this relationship affect the practice of your faith? Have you made this person the center of your life, instead of God? Do you pray less regularly because of this relationship? Do you "deny Christ" around this person or this person's friends, in order to gain acceptance?

Most importantly, does this relationship cause you to sin? There are a lot of ways a friendship can lead you to sin. Does this person gossip? Does this group abuse drugs or alcohol? Do they destroy people's property? One of the most common, and most serious, ways that a relationship can lead us away from Christ is when a dating relationship leads to sexual sin. When you're attracted to someone, it's natural to want to bring them closer to Christ. But when you're sexually attracted to them and they don't share your standards for sexual purity, you've entered a very dangerous situation. When the hormones get flowing, logic tends to go out the window. If you're with someone who doesn't believe in saving sex for marriage or who doesn't at least fully respect your commitment to it, they have no reason not to want to go further. And, when resistance is down, you're pretty likely to follow.

A lot of Christians get into this situation. Sexual sin happens in a relationship over and over, and they find it difficult or impossible to stop it. Either the other person just isn't as committed to chastity as they are, or habits are formed, or whatever. But they rationalize staying in the relationship, saying, "But because of me, he's closer to Christ. He goes to Mass sometimes."

But at what price? Repeated mortal sin is putting your soul in serious danger, as well as the soul of the person you're with. That's not the way to lead anyone to Christ. It's pretty much a guarantee that your relationship won't be infused with grace. You're going to struggle, emotionally and spiritually. It will probably keep your friend from finding Christ. Remember, faith is a grace job, not a logic job. And sin denies us, and them, that grace. And it will drive you away from Him, and take away your peace of soul, in process.

If you're in a relationship that's leading you to serious sin, it's important that you realize that the sin has to stop. You're risking your immortal soul, as well as your friend's. Eternity is resting on this. The stakes could not possibly be higher. You have to look at what's going on and take serious action to stop it. That means, if it's sexual sin, never being alone together, or staying out of the house or car or wherever there's a problem. You need strict rules and you need to follow them. Get help if you need it.

A lot of people in this situation think, "I'll just keep going to confession every time it happens and I'll be fine." Wrong. Think about it. Repenting says to God, "I'm sorry this happened and I'm going to try really hard to make sure it never happens again." That's what it means to be sorry. That's the condition of your forgiveness. You need to be committed to serious change.

Just going back to the same old habits isn't going to cut it. If you do that, you know it's going to happen again. You can't just say, "I'll go back into that tempting situation/being in a dark room alone/making out in the car/whatever. Only this time I'll be stronger." No, you won't. Your hormones aren't made that way. And going into a situation where you're pretty sure you're going to sin is a sin in itself. That's right. You can sin before you've even started sinning, just by going back into a situation where you've repeatedly lost control and having no guarantee this time, besides "I'll try really hard." Confessing means committing to avoiding the situation.

Sure you may fall again. But that means going back to confession and backing up further. It means making even stricter rules next time. And, if that doesn't work -- soon -- you need to end the relationship. Period. I know that may sound harsh, but think about it. Who is the god of your life? God? If so, what's worth jeopardizing your relationship with Him? Who could be so important that you'd risk losing Him? Where will you be without Him?

Pope John Paul II says that it's God who "opens our hearts to friendship." If a friendship is marred by persistent, serious sin, real love is not in action. You can say "I love you," but you're not loving and God is not there.

Don't you want Him around? Don't you want Him in your relationships? I guarantee, they won't work right any other way.

Bonacci is a frequent lecturer on chastity.

This article appeared in the December 8, 1994 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.