By David Faust
What individuals do you encounter in a typical day? Some are strangers with whom you have little in common. Others have familiar faces but the relationship never moves beyond polite exchanges. “How’s it going?” “Fine.” But what worries them? What dreams are they pursuing? What hurts are they enduring? What questions are they asking?
The Bible says to “love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). How can we gain deeper insight into the hearts of the people we meet? How should our faith in Christ affect our interactions with others?
Some people we encounter are supporters who build up our faith. First-century Christians referred to other believers with the Greek agapetoi, “loved ones” or “dear friends.” Jude used this term of endearment when he wrote, “Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold” (Jude 17). David’s friend Jonathan supported him in the midst of adversity. Jesus’ circle of friends included John, the beloved disciple. Paul and Timothy shared a deep bond of fellowship as they served the Lord together. True friends listen, encourage, and spur us on “toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
Other people we meet are scoffers who tear down our faith. Jude warned, “‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’ These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit” (Jude 18, 19). Some individuals simply are not safe—even in the church. Harry Ironside observed, “Wherever there’s light, there’s bugs.” In his book Well-Intentioned Dragons (Baker, 1994), Marshall Shelley describes difficult church members who are impossible to please. They “accuse you of being (pick one) too spiritual, not spiritual enough, too dominant, too laid back, too narrow, too loose, too structured, too disorganized, or ulterior in your motives.” Outside the church, mockers tear down faith but have nothing positive to offer in its place. That’s why Jude says, “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (vv. 20, 21).
But not all questioners are scoffers. In daily life we also encounter seekers who are curious about our faith. “Be merciful to those who doubt,” Jude declares (v. 22). Inquirers who genuinely want to know the truth need honest answers, not harsh judgment. We need to help them discover why it’s reasonable to trust in Christ (1 Peter 3:15).
Still others are strugglers who need to be confronted with our faith. “Snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear” (Jude 23). They are on the verge of slipping into the fire pit of Hell. Gentle words won’t get through. They need to hear the truth plainly and boldly, eyeball to eyeball.
No matter what interactions we share with others, every day we have the opportunity to encounter the Lord, who is the object of our faith. “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen” (vv. 24, 25).
If we meet daily with the Lord, we will be better prepared to handle our interactions with the supporters, scoffers, seekers, and strugglers we meet the rest of the day.