In our conversation, he gave me some rather shocking and appalling details, which I will try to reproduce with some discretion here.
My friend was talking lately to a mutual acquaintance (of whom he would not give the name)--a Christian whom I used to attend church with before my conversion to Catholicism. This person told my friend that she would frequently engage in "Friends with Benefits", and I mean, all the benefits which that term implies. Thing is, she still considers herself a good Christian. Moreover, she told my friend that she knows several other persons from this same church who engage in similar activities!
Here's the kicker: this person fails to see that what they are doing is in any way sinful! She thinks that God's law against extra-marital sex is a guideline or a suggestion so that people don't take it to extremes. I'm sorry, but to what extreme can one take it if not to "Friends with Benefits" i.e. sexual relations with someone with whom you aren't even in a committed relationship--let alone married?!
Anyway, in the course of this conversation, our mutual acquaintance proceeded to ask my friend about my well-being, to which my friend could only reply that he didn't really know as we hadn't talked in several months. She then asked him what he thought of my conversion to Catholicism, and when he gave a not-quite-affirming reply yet a not-judgemental one, either, she proceeded to hypothetically inquire, "I just can't understand how Greg could trade a relationship with Jesus for 'religion'." At this statement, my friend assures me that he almost punched her head in!
So, as you might be able to see, this simply could not go without comment!
First of all, how is it that an alleged "born again" evangelical Christian can completely disregard basic Christian morality, and still consider themselves Christian? I mean, one of the reasons I left Protestantism was because of its inclination toward doctrinal relativism--but I had thought that this particular denomination, this particular church, wouldn't have sunk all the way to moral relativism as well! Does no one teach about sin anymore?!
Second, how can this same person then turn around and judge my own faith--which she knows absolutely nothing about, evidently, by saying that I don't have a relationship with Jesus simply because I am "religious"? These two ideas, as I have written elsewhere on this blog, are not mutually exclusive. I am not perfect, and I struggle with sin--a lot (including, apparently, a greater desire for gossip than I realised, since I had the overwhelming desire to learn just who this person was, though my friend wisely and with the utmost integrity refused to tell me)--but I still recognise that it is sin, and I still attempt to struggle with it! In spite of that, I still believe that I have a relationship with Jesus--a close friendship even. And my "Religion" doesn't obstruct that; it aids the relationship, it focusses and defines it. And if nothing else, it reminds me clearly that there are certain things that My Friend does not approve of--things that, if persisted in, will actually destroy our friendship.
Jesus said, "You are My friends, if you do what I command you" (John 15:14), not "You are my friends, go do whatever you want, it's your life."
Jesus is my Friend, but He is also the King and Lawgiver, who demands holiness of us. Friendship is indeed contingent on obedience--and that doesn't seem to be getting through to the very people who claim to have a relationship with Him while denying my own.
Brennan Manning once said, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge God with their lips, and walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
And really, I don't blame them.