Most people are attracted to others who share common interests. Whether sports, literature, hobbies or music, friendships are often formed and cultivated based on likes and dislikes between two or more people.
And while most people can agree that friendships are based on many different things, sometimes friendships are created through close proximity or circumstances. For example, believers often form friendships with people from their church or Bible study group because of their shared faith and the fact that they’re exposed to one another week after week.
While the ideal friendship for Christians is connecting with a person who is a believer and who follows the teachings from Scripture, how do we distinguish between those who are truly saved and those who aren’t? After all, Jesus taught that “not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 7:21).
In a nutshell, we don’t. It’s not our job as believers to make a judgment call as to whether or not a person is saved because our judgments are often wrong and unfair. Unlike God, we are unequipped to offer a fair and discerning judgment of the heart. God is the only one qualified to judge others because only he has the power to save and destroy (James 4:12). The apostle Paul tells us that people have the power to destroy and we’re great at condemnation, but our limitations as humans prevent us from offering anyone salvation (Galatians 5:15). But not so with God — God is forgiving and merciful and only he can provide reconciliation and salvation.
But believers sometimes forget that not all people who are saved have their act together with the Lord. For example, new believers can have a chaotic and messy relationship with God while trying to establish a strong Christian foundation. And the same is true for seasoned believers; after years of learning and studying Scripture, they might become too critical or arrogant with those who haven’t yet reached their level. In other words, there are different stages of Christian development for each person and to pass judgment based solely on that stage can be damaging.
So what is the job of a believer when interacting with others? Scripture teaches that we are to preach the gospel, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone, and show mercy to those who doubt ( Mark 16:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Jude 1:22).
But above all, believers should regularly examine and test their own faith instead of judging the faith of someone else (2 Corinthians 13:5). Do you offer encouragement? Do you help the weak? Are you patient? Do you show mercy to others regardless of their beliefs? These types of questions can help us take a closer look at who we are and can show us whether a genuine change has taken place within our hearts or if there are areas that need work.
As mentioned earlier, every person is at a different stage in their Christian development and it’s up to us to accept, recognize, and consider those different stages when interacting with others. Instead of judging and dismissing a person by what they might say or how they might behave, we need to show love, encouragement, patience, and mercy.
And we need to leave the judging of someone else’s salvation solely to God.
Donna Hughey is an award-winning Christian author and columnist. She lives in Crescent City.