Let us take a moment to be reminded of what we are doing. Over the past several posts we have been in a series called The Gentle Slopes That Kill the Soul. In this series, we have looked at how the Adversary of our souls tries to dilute, disjoint, and destroy our faith. One of our chief guides, aside from Scripture, has been the masterful C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) in his The Screwtape Letters. Within these letters, we have learned from the lips of a senior devil named Screwtape how Satan can and often works through the seemingly mundane and trivial things of life to slowly eat away at our joy and peace in Christ.
Soberly we have come to see (I hope) that a “fall from faith” rarely happens in an avalanche or a tsunami. Most often it occurs through decay and a steady trickle. Rarely does Satan seek from us open rebellion, it is far more useful for him to foster in our souls shruggish indifference and yawning compromise – for these are just as hellishly potent and far more long term. It is through the “little things” of life, the gentle slopes and soft bends, that he works his best magic. Through family relations, church dealings, and personal passions and pleasures he whittles away spiritual vitality. There are however more ways he can work deceptively that are worth considering.
BECOMING WHAT WE PRETEND TO BE
Another way the Adversary can, and often does, slowly divert our souls from the Truth and Beauty of Christ is through the relationships we forge. Friendships and comraderies are powerful means through which our souls are formed in this world. Outside of marriage and family friendship is the most significant social relation in developing our personalities, identities, and socialization. It is no wonder that the Scriptures emphatically and prophetically warn us to take inventory of those we commune with. The author of Proverbs summarized it like this:
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm”
And the Apostle Paul warned the Christians in Corinth that,
“You should not be deceived for: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’”
1 Corinthians 15:33
Friendship and companionship are powerful. They form our souls. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), the famous Greek philosopher, said that friendship was, “A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” In short through friendships, our souls mingle with the souls of others in the context of mutual interests and activities. Through common interests, laughs, tears, and communion we open ourselves to being transformed and to transform. We moderns need to understand the power of this. We like to pride ourselves in our enlightened highly self-centered Western culture that we are self-made islands who shape our wills and personalities. We are mistaken. We are inherently social creatures, and we are as much conformists to our surrounding environments and those we hang around like any other cultural group or time period – even more so arguably. C.S. Lewis brings out the power of this truth through the senior demon Screwtape when he advises the young Wormwood about his patients’ (the Christian) newest friends,
I was delighted to hear…that your patient has made some very desirable new acquaintances and that you seem to have used this event in a really promising manner. I gather that the middle-aged married couple who called at his office are just the sort of people we want him to know—rich, smart, superficially intellectual, and brightly skeptical about everything in the world…. This is excellent. And you seem to have made good use of all his social, sexual, and intellectual vanity. Tell me more. Did he commit himself deeply? I don’t mean in words. There is a subtle play of looks and tones and laughs by which a Mortal can imply that he is of the same party as those to whom he is speaking. That is the kind of betrayal you should specially encourage, because the man does not fully realize it himself; and by the time he does you will have made withdrawal difficult.
No doubt [your patient] must very soon realize that his own faith is in direct opposition to the assumptions on which all the conversation of his new friends is based. I don't think that matters much provided that you can persuade him to postpone any open acknowledgement of the fact, and this, with the aid of shame, pride, modesty, and vanity, will be easy to do. As long as the postponement lasts he will be in a false position. He will be silent when he ought to speak and laugh when he ought to be silent. He will assume, at first only by his manner, but presently by his words, all sorts of cynical and skeptical attitudes which are not really his. But of you play him well, they may become his. All mortals tend to turn into the things they are pretending to be. This is elementary.
Lewis’s analysis of slow-roasted hypocrisy in our relationships is stingingly accurate and relevant.
THE DANGERS OF LIVING THROUGH THE EYES OF OTHERS
Many times, we as Christians concentrate on living our lives through the eyes of others. Much of the time we work hard at building a reputation of not being different from those around us. Why? I don’t have all the answers but I believe there are at least two reasons to consider (by no means are they exhaustive). One reason is the seductive power of our Zeitgeist “Spirit of the Age.” Plainly stated, we want people to like us because the culture says we should. We can lie all we want to ourselves, but our intuitively democratic-centered personalities strive to be accepted by the crowds we inhabit. To achieve this goal, our culture tells us we need to be tolerant, non-pushy, and apathetic to concepts such as Truth and morality. Upon such edifices are friendships forged. It is best to laugh than cry with people and to agree than correct them. After all, all paths equally valid and worthy. This is what our post-modern hyper-individualistic age tells us anyways. And so, this mentality bleeds into how we go about the business of friendships. We do not want to “impose” our Jesus-freakishness upon them.
Another reason we tend to mute our faith in our friendships is that many of our churches feed us steady diets of “non-pushy” spirituality. We need “friendship evangelism” the preachers say. The entire edifice of modern “church growth” revolves around a consumer-focused, convenience-rooted evangelization model. We need to fight hard to get unbelievers to like us and to come to church. How do we do this? We need to stop being too-churchy, too-biblical, and too-spiritual. This is all too “Puritanical” you see. Curb our conversations by limiting Bible quotes and hyper-spiritual language. We need to make sure those around us, our family and friends, see us as equally superficial and non-sacrificial as they are. We need them to know that objectively there is no definable difference between our B.C. or A.D. lives. We act as they act, we say what they say, we watch what they watch, we listen to what they listen to, we laugh at what they laugh at, and we enjoy what they enjoy. No change, no sacrifice, no difference is at all required when we exchange the world for Christ.
Is it any wonder many of us Christians do not take the initiative to ever share our faith with friends and family when we are fed this bovine refuse? The data is as sad as it is disturbing that we have bought it hook line and sinker. But I digress.
These two modes of thinking, one secular and one hypocritically spiritual engrains into our minds a certain way of how we approach friends and family with spirituality (or lack of approach). We often intentionally mute our Faith in the presence of others because we are living our Faith through their eyes. We do this with family, friends, and coworkers. Our “wanting them to accept us” overrides any consideration of us “wanting them to accept Christ.” But we would not say this out loud or even think it! But we do. And so, we remain quiet. But then the quiet turns into nods. Nods turn into laughs. Laughs turn into acceptance. Acceptance turns into indifference. It is a slow fade.
Lewis reveals to us that within our perpetual postponement lies the seeds of our own soul's ruin. Satan wants us in a perpetual state of “I’ll-bring-it-up-when-its-convenient-ism.” He wants us to wear proudly the Red Badge of Irresolution with our faith sharing. Why? Because such a mentality not only deprives the befriended of the beauty of Christ truth and person, but it also slowly erodes our passion and care for Christ amid soul mingling.
“All mortals tend to turn into the things they are pretending to be”
The mortar of our souls begins to slowly crack and erode as we find ourselves ever more adapting to the conditions of those whom we desperately want to like us. There is a seduction here. Take inventory.
Does this mean we must browbeat Bible verses at every party or social event with friends or family? Does this mean we need to do a check-box list of words not to say or movies not to watch? Not necessarily on either account. But you miss the point of the message being stated. Stop caricaturing the central point to justify running away from its correction.
No, the point is that when all the joy and excitement of our friendships dwells ONLY in games, food, and laughs, and never at any time in spiritual considerations then what is happening is we reveal that in our hearts “the spiritual” is not really a category of joy or excitement at all. When it doesn’t even register as worthy of conversation within the communities we inhabit, then obviously we need to consider if we truly believe it capable of changing our personal lives and the lives of those we befriend. This brings me to the next point in this post.
RECOVERING AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE OF FRIENDSHIPS
How do we shake ourselves from the deceptiveness of spiritual deadening in our friendships? Again, as always, I do not dare presume to give the only answer here. That said, I think part of it is we need to be awakened to the brevity of our lives on earth and the eternal nature of our relations. C.S. Lewis powerfully said in The Weight of Glory,
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” 
Think on this. Your friends are as eternal as they will ever be. Your family members are as eternal as they will ever be. Every laugh, every cry, every discussion, every joke, every interaction, in some way to some degree is a soul-forming moment rippled in Eternity. When we think this way, we begin to see our acquaintances as more than “opportunities” (a time to chill, a time to hang, a time to play), we see them with Christ-tinted glasses. We see them as agents worthy to be shown True Beauty and Love.
If we genuinely love our friends, then we would and should desire the good for them. We should and would want the best for them. We would want more than just a good time with them, we would desire the good for them. Aristotle said it this way,
“The complete sort of friendship is that between people who are good and are alike in virtue [that] wish for good things for one another in the same way insofar as they are good, and they are good in themselves.”
To not desire the good in another is to not really love the one to whom we say we befriend.
What pray tell, could be greater, more beautiful, more good, than the Truth of Christ Himself? If we really believed this, then what could keep us from acknowledging or communicating this to those we befriend and love?
Let me be a little more brash. If you believe that Hell is a real place to be shunned and Heaven a real realm to be gained, then why are you not deliberately seeking to proclaim this to the ones you laugh and eat with? Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) said it candidly,
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
Do you care, I mean actually care, about the souls of those you merry with? Or are you content with laughs and games? If so, then perhaps you need to resign yourself to being a user of eternal agents for finite gains. This is hard to say but convicting and necessary to say.
DISPLAYING OUR PASSION
Many times, we affirm that we are afraid to share the gospel with friends and family for fear they may cut us off or see us as fools or Bible-thumping wingnuts. Perhaps they would, perhaps they would not. There are ways we do need to go about sharing the gospel and displaying it that brings glory to God instead of self. But that is not the point of this particular post.
While the point of this post is not to discuss skills for gospel sharing (which is a worthy discussion), I will say that insecurity and fear can be part of our lack of sharing faith, but if we are forthright with ourselves often our lack of sharing can be (and often is) rooted in our lack of spiritual growth and passion. This is not easy to say but there is truth here. I am reminded of the words of Billy Graham (1918-2018) who put it simply but profoundly,
“Our faith becomes stronger as we express it; a growing faith is a sharing faith.”
Think of what he is saying. There is a correlation between the growth of faith and sharing of faith. The implication is jarring: If we are not sharing, then more than likely it is indicative that we are not growing and as we do not grow, we do not share. There is a cyclical pattern here.
We as humans will share the things, we are most passionate about. Our passion boosts our confidence, and our passion is tied to the growth we have in that which we love. So, for example, we will endlessly debate football plays, we will unabashedly discuss video-game and movie releases, we will heedlessly share inspirational poetry and favorite authors, we will compare our favorite scrapbooking hobbies or latest fashions. We do these things because we know these things because they are part of who we are and we are thus confident in them. These are all good things too! These are the pleasures of life. But they are also bitingly ephemeral. Here today, go tomorrow, replaced by the new and improved. What about that which lasts forever? Does it even register on the radar of our lives? Do we care about it as much as we do games, cars, or sports?
If we aren’t sharing our Faith could it be, we really aren’t passionate about it, to begin with?
Is your Faith as deeply apart of who you are as a person that it is like your DNA? Is your Faith something tacked onto what you do once or twice a week or is it who you are? Is your Faith an event or an identity? Answering these questions are the first steps in recovering a robust desire to integrate and actively display the love of Christ in the every day of community and companionship.
 https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/friendship/; https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756384/obo-9780199756384-0170.xml#:~:text=The%20question%20%E2%80%9Cwho%20is%20friends,society's%20social%20cohesion%20and%20openness.
 Scriptural data on warning us about the kinds of company we keep and how it affects and can infect our moral and spiritual development: Psalm 1:1-6; Proverbs 13:20, 14:7, 16:28, 18:24, 22:24-25, 27:17; 1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14; James 4:4
 Aristotle, quotes in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
 C.S. Lewis, Signature Classics, The Screwtape Letters (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2003), pg. 212-213
 The data shows us that Christians are progressively (or regressively) an un-evangelistic type of people. We just don’t like sharing our faith with other people because of fear of being considered judgmental and/or pushy: https://www.barna.com/research/sharing-faith-increasingly-optional-christians/; https://www.barna.com/research/millennials-oppose-evangelism/; https://www.godreports.com/2019/04/most-churchgoers-rarely-share-their-faith/; https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/asked-1600-christians-why-they-dont-share-their-faith.html
 C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), pg. 46
 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, Chapter 3
 C. H. Spurgeon: “The Wailing of Risca” (Sermon No. 349; Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 9th, 1860, at Exeter Hall, Strand) https://archive.spurgeon.org/sermons/0349.php
 Billy Graham, Hope for Each Day Signature Edition: Words of Wisdom and Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2014), pg. 18
Michael H. Erskine is a high school Social Studies Teacher, has an M.A. in History & School Administration, serves as a Bible teacher in the local church, and is happily married to his beautiful wife Amanda.