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An Open Letter to Old Friends

If I could write an open letter to some of the friends I’ve had who didn’t buy my reasons for faith in Christ, I think I would imagine them as a person I’ll call Aaron and write something like this.

“Dear Aaron,

I hope you are doing well. I miss our conversations. Even more, I regret that we haven’t kept in touch.

“I’m writing now because a lot has changed in my thinking over the years.

“I remember, Aaron, that you used to say that you didn’t think that, as a group, church people were any better than anyone else–they just think they are. You said the best people you knew never darkened the door of a church.

“Even though I argued with you at the time, it’s clear to me now that you were right in arguing that followers of Christ often talk a better game than we walk. I remember arguing for the humanitarian impact of Christ on culture. Yet you were quick to point out that his followers have too often been on the wrong side of issues like slavery, poverty, racism, the environment and war.

“I remember the letters to the editor you wrote, and the streets you walked, to protest the wrongs of racism, the evils of war, and the pollution of the environment.

“Since the last time we talked, I’ve traveled enough internationally to see the hospitality and goodwill of people of non-Christian cultures. In other countries, as in our own, I’ve seen that a person doesn’t have to believe in Christ to be loving, gracious, and even heroic in the face of human need.

“Such experiences over the years have reminded me of the disbelief I saw in your eyes whenever I talked to you about your need of Christ. I remember the questions you asked when I quoted the words of the apostle Paul when he wrote, ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.’ You told me that you didn’t buy it because you had grown up in the church and knew firsthand that these were not people for whom all things had become new.

“Well, Aaron, I wish I had been quicker to listen and slower to say more than I knew. Along the way I’ve seen enough in myself and in others to know now how foolish I must have sounded to you. Somewhere along the line I started asking questions like: If believing in Christ changes people’s hearts, why do so many of His followers turn out to be moralistic, self-righteous, angry people? Why does faith in Christ too often produce visible changes that are more like the honeymoon phase of a marriage than a lasting change in life?

“At this point, I admit that my spiritual journey has run parallel to what I’ve learned in marriage. What doesn’t change in either one is the human baggage we bring into both. The independent inclinations that were a part of me before and after marriage were also a part of me before and after I put my faith in Christ. The self-centeredness that makes it difficult for me to hear the concerns of my wife also makes it hard for me to hear the words and wisdom of Christ. Growth and maturity don’t come automatically or easily. In both cases, I was not prepared for what turned out to be the greatest challenges of my life. What I didn’t realize beforehand is that the biggest enemy I would ever face would be my own unchanged inclinations.

“I don’t mean to minimize the wonderful sides of marriage or conversion. But I can see now how wrong my expectations had been. I had looked to salvation to make me good, as I had looked to marriage to make me happy. I didn’t see that in both cases my own human nature would stack the deck against me if I didn’t do whatever it took to let the relationship change me.

“Aaron, as I look back on some of our conversations, it’s clear that I had not thought carefully enough about what the Bible means when it says that all things become new for a person who is in Christ. For too long I missed the obvious. It didn’t occur to me that whenever the Bible encourages us to love, or to pray, or to think and speak honestly, it is because, in moments of temptation, we remain so inclined to do just the opposite.

“Yes, Aaron, my thinking has changed a lot since the last time we talked. Life has been a lot harder than I expected. Looking back, I don’t regret putting my faith in Christ. He is by far the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ll never be able to thank him enough for what he’s done for me. But what I can see now is that accepting his offer of forgiveness and everlasting life didn’t automatically assure that I would be good or wise in what followed.

“I now see more clearly the parallel between being married and entering into a relationship with Christ. Upon a couple’s public confession, a minister declares a man and woman married, but not mature in their love. And when we put our faith in Christ, God declares us legally forgiven, but not good or wise. In both cases there is a difference between the legal declaration and resulting quality of life.

“I now believe that church people, in our best moments, have a lot in common with members of a 12-step recovery group. We attend meetings and work the program, not because we are better than others but because we know we need our God and one another to overcome the problems that are stacked against us.

“I only wish, Aaron, that I had understood years ago that to believe in Christ is not the same thing as sharing his wisdom.

“Thanks for listening. If you’re ever inclined, I’d love to hear something of where you are in your own spiritual journey.”



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17 Responses to “An Open Letter to Old Friends”

  1. Gena says:

    This is perfect! Very well written and you touched a lot of angles, yet stayed true to the basis of your thoughts surrounding why we often appear hypocritical to non-believers. Our journey as followers of Christ sometimes is not a walk in the park. The road is dusty and paved with good intentions. If we can just imagine Christ ahead of us on the walk, He’ll stay in step with us – every step of the way ministering all the while.

  2. paul bishop says:

    A comment to non-believers: As Christians, we are
    not perfect ( in their eyes ) but we are forgiven.

  3. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning everyone, Mart, I thank God He is is the Judge, the Righteous Judge, the judge that judges the thoughts and intents of my heart, many times not my actions.
    God has told me,Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
    I believe it is human nature to desire to find someone we believe is worse than we are in order to improve our self estemn with God.
    The Holy Spirit has shown me God does not need help in judging others, but it seems i desire this job, but i know absolutly know i am not qualified.
    I believe one of the problems with many church goers, they have desired to escape Hell, and have worded prayers a pastor, or someone has told them they needed to say in order to be saved, but have never really desired to live with God His way, nor have desired for God to be their God in this life, therby they have never been Born Again, just desired to escape Hell.
    I know we can never please everyone all the time, thereby there will always be those that will find fault in how we are living, but i believe God has asked me to love those He puts in my life daily, and when i do this, i do not believe many will find fault with me if i am really loving them.
    The big little word ( IF ) I will do this is, is where the human problem comes in.

  4. hal.fshr says:


    I appreciate your honesty and openness concerning internal conflicts that plague us as believers. This quote especially stood out: “I now see more clearly the parallel between being married and entering into a relationship with Christ. Upon a couple’s public confession, a minister declares a man and woman married, but not mature in their love. And when we put our faith in Christ, God declares us legally forgiven, but not good or wise. In both cases there is a difference between the legal declaration and resulting quality of life.”

    My only suggestion is that the article does not seem to reflect much upon the filling of the Holy Spirit in the yielded believer’s heart. Character transformation is possible through Christ producing His own character qualities in us through the fruit of the Spirit (Eph. 5:18; 1 John 1:9; Gal. 5:16, 22-23). Yet with this marvelous resource made available to us, we are also plagued by the presence of the old sin nature (Gal. 5:19-21). But every day we have a choice concerning which we will yield ourselves to. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. pegramsdell says:

    Amen! Well said and thought out.
    I have no idea what has happened in all these years, but, it HAS been incredibly hard. It’s sort of like teenagers thinking they are grown up and mature, only to find out they really have just begun to live life.

  6. Mart De Haan says:

    hal.fshr, that’s a good point. There is so much that I didn’t mention about what God is ready and willing to do in and through us with his Word, his Spirit, his church, etc. I was just trying to point out that real change is not sustained without ongoing desire and willingness to let the Spirit of God do his work in us.

  7. drkennyg says:

    Well I’m kinda brand new at the effort to bring others to Christ. When I remember to put God first and give ALL the glory to Him, it is usually a more fruitful encounter. May the Holy Spirit lead us all into better and more Christ-like relationships with our fellow man especially nonbelievers.

  8. poohpity says:

    As usual right on!! I watched the movie the “Guardian”, which I have posted on before, but am reminded of the statements at the end of the movie that could be applied to our Christian walk. The student was always concerned about how many people the teacher had saved because he was very competitive and wanted to beat the teachers numbers. The teacher however never told the student the saved numbers but at the end of the movie he revealed the number 22 and told the student that that was the number of those he had lost. I use that as a basis for myself to keep an eye on how many I have pushed away from the love of Christ because I have acted in an unloving or unkind way. I believe if I have to use words I may want to look at my behavior.

  9. Becky M says:

    God knew us in our mother’s womb and from the time we were born we needed Him and mother to survive. We drank milk for quite awhile before we started soft, mushed solid food. Then we continued with a complete solid diet, learning to eat a healthy diet(which imo we stumble at). As our body ages we need to adjust our diets to keep us healty. That is a life long journey. Being born again is our life long spirtual journey which God overtakes leading us and making us grow to full perfect everlasting spiritual life where we will attain His glory forever. In other words live forever as sons and daughters in His Kingdom. I guess that is just another way of looking at and saying the point you were trying to make, Mart. I think? Well, I agree that what you wrote was well thought out and well said.

  10. Elaa says:

    When my first relationship as a believer ended, I quickly realized that there is more to being a believer than naming and claiming.

    One of the things I hold on to though is in Romans where it says, ‘be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the RENEWING of your mind.’ I take that to mean that the walk of faith is one of on going perfection. Those who think believing and confessing is the end of it all, miss it by expecting believers to be flawless.

    Another scripture I hold on to is in Ephesians where it says and I paraphrase, ‘put off the old man, be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man.’ Some people stop at putting off the old man and others at renewing the mind. Unless there is the full process, which concludes with the new man who can do all things without exception through Christ that strengthens, then alarming flaws may be exhibited by a believer.

    For me, I would rather a person come to Christ, and be in the position where they can be convicted by His word and the Holy Spirit to press towards the mark of a higher calling, than have individuals wait until perfected before coming to Christ.

    I appreciate the many non-believers who have excellent characters and I bless God for them. But scripture says its not by works of righteousness and that really leaves things hanging.

  11. KayakBill says:

    I want to thank you, Mart, and many of the folks here that comment on your posts, for taking the time to share your thoughts, share the challenges you experience in trying to live your lives in a way that you think God would approve of.

    I’m not a new BELIEVER – I know full well that Jesus walked this earth, died for our sins, and rose into Heaven on the third day. But I’ve recently started to become a FOLLOWER, and trying to live my life by Christ’s example.

    Your posts, and many of the comments they generate, give me much to consider and provide me more help than you can imagine in this endeavor.

    Again, thank you, all, for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  12. Mart De Haan says:

    Elaa, I agree with your comments. My concern in writing this is for (1)those who haven’t yet trusted Christ, in part, because they don’t think Christians are “any different”, and also for (2) those who have accepted Christ and after a while find that they aren’t much different than anyone else.

    You’re right that it’s not about trying to clean ourselves up before coming to Christ. That’s almost a worst case because it would suggest a belief that God accepts us on our own merits.

    Best case is to realize that, because of what Christ did in dying for us, he’ll accept us “as is” when we acknowledge our sin and accept him as our saving Lord.

    After the thrill of being forgiven and accepted into his forever family wears off, the challenge is to urge one another on to let the Words and Spirit of God to make an ongoing difference.

  13. andrecordeiro says:

    Hi Mart.

    Thank you for sharing that with us.
    I feel that is exactly what I’ve been going through in my spiritual life right now.

    I’ve been a Christian for about 5 years now and realize that sometimes we do have a fake image of ourselves. When God allows unbelievers to point our inconsistent behaviour to us we’d feel really bad and start questioning our faith and the power of God to change us.
    But we need to admit we’re not angels or super spiritual beings. We were really the worst of all, the crippled, lame… invited to the Kingdom’s feast by grace.

    God won’t let pride take over our lives. He’ll make sure He’ll get rid of it! If we’re sincere in our relationship with Him, He’ll break us and mold us for His Own Glory, not for ours.

    Many of us have this tendency to think they know everything about life and about God so the Lord will make sure we stop thinking that way…

    André – Rome

  14. desert rose says:

    I too, would like to see that some old contacts I have had over the years could read a letter like you wrote. I’m glad you wrote it in the sense it is to a non-believer. Sometimes we forget what it was like for us to have the faith to believe. It is a reminder to us, that the only Bible some people see is our testimony and the words of encouragement we give. We need to bring it down to a level where they can understand that only our Lord Jesus Christ is perfect and only He can save us.

  15. poohpity says:

    I do not believe that we need to BRING IT DOWN to level that the nonbeliever can understand that only Jesus is perfect. I think that we as believers need to bring it done to a level that believers can understand that only Jesus Christ is perfect.

  16. xrgarza says:

    Mart, I just had a similar conversation with a friend. He mentioned “all I have to do is be a good person” knowing that his family migrated from another country, I mentioned to him that no matter how good they were or how well they emulated American’s they would not be Americans until they became citizens. Similarly, in our country there are many that are homeless, many that are addicted to drugs, alcohol, porn, and many that are abusive etc. etc. These people are still Americans. You will also find these kinds of people in God’s family if they have accepted Christ as Lord. I believe the real problem and the question should be similar to that in when we ask in our own Nation: “Where are the parents?” Or “who disciple these people?”

  17. Francisco Trevino says:

    Hello Mart, as one of the counselors to our church’s teenage group, this letter was an eye openers that we should continuously reinforce Christ in the lives of our children so they don’t receive a similar letter years from now.

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