Good article for you Jerry - enjoy,
I was twiking the article just a bit and lost the reference page AAAAAhhhhhh - sowwee
First, I think we can all agree that Christians absolutely need to be the “light.” We need to be loving, kind, and gentle with all people. This means whether they are the nicest people we know, or whether they are terrible unrepentant “sinners” (we all sin by the way), we are supposed to be “like Christ.” We are supposed to set an example and love all. We are supposed to be the light they can see so they can distinguish light from darkness.
So there is no question that we are supposed to be nice, friendly, and loving to all people, regardless of religion, faith, or lack thereof. How else would we show an example? How else would we ever win people over to God? But I think a lot of confusion and disagreement on this topic comes from not defining the word friend. There are certainly different types. When we define friend, we can see this more clearly, and I think people will be more inclined to agree.
Because we all know there are different types of friendships. We have people we see a lot, we have co-workers, we have best friends, etc. So for this article, I will divide the word friend into the 2 main types: Close friends, and Acquaintance friends, and define them:
These are the two main types of friendships I will be referring to. If you can visualize a spectrum in your mind, and one extreme is a close friendship, and the other is an acquaintance type (with different levels in-between).
And yes, almost everyone has these types. Even Jesus had a disciple who he loved a bit more, (note when the bible says, ‘John, the disciple Jesus loved.’).
Again, this to me is an absolute YES! You need to be on friendly terms with any person you come into contact with. Love they neighbor. Who is your neighbor? Anyone you see or come into contact with. Be a friend. Who is a friend? Anyone.
So in this sense of the word, we need to be friends with everyone. So if there is a co-worker of a different faith, you need to be nice, friendly, and loving to that person, even if they disagree with you. The same applies to any person you may come into contact with in your life.
Again, this is a more shallow type of friendship, but it is a friendship nonetheless. We need this type of friendship with all people. This is how we can extend love to our fellow humans. It is how we can even occasionally share the gospel with them. We can also learn a great deal and grow spiritually by having these friendships.
Even if they reject the gospel, we Christians need to maintain this type of a friendship with all people. We must love and respect our fellow humans. Did you ever notice that Jesus had many acquaintance type friendships with sinners? The Pharisees would criticize Jesus about this. They would accuse him of occasionally hanging with a sinner or eating with them.
How did Jesus respond? He replied, “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
Isn’t Jesus so brilliant with his responses? I think so. Anyway, we all need to be loving, set an example, and share the gospel with our friends. And yes, there is nothing wrong with having an acquaintance friend of any or all faiths (or no faith at all). And YES, we need to maintain them even if they do not convert to Christianity. We should love even our enemies (and isn’t that hard sometimes?).
So again, yes, in this sense, we need to be friends with any/everyone. But what about close friendships?
This is where the topic gets sticky. On one hand, we can totally have shallow friendships with everyone. On the other hand, should we have deep friendships with unbelievers or people of other religions? Let’s take a look. I will divide this up into 3 sections: Christians, Believers, and then Unbelievers.
First, just let me say that of course all Christians can be close friends. That is a no-brainer. There may be some who label themselves as Christians, and then do the opposite of Christianity. In this case, I think the friendship will suffer, and potentially default to the acquaintance type. But of course all Christians can and should be close friends with one another. We are all in one body of Christ.
Next, we have other monotheistic faiths (such as a Christian and a Jew). Again, I think this is fine as well. There may be some distinctions that arise in doctrine/theology at points in the friendship. There may be also some cultural differences those pose problems over time, but overall, if two people have a similar beliefs, I think a close friendship can definitely be maintained. However, I think some problems can definitely arise. If this happens, the friendship will probably slowly slide from the “close” type to the ‘acquaintance” type.
Lastly, we have the unbelievers. These would be atheists, agnostics, and any other religions (such as buddhism) that have wildly different views. I think it would be difficult to maintain a very deep or close relationship with a person like this. Why? Simply because there will be too many differences that arise in every area. This is due to a dramatic world-view difference. I am not necessarily saying we should ignore these people and kick them to the curb. But I do think the relationship will naturally slide from close to a non-close over the course of time if both hold fast to their own beliefs.
Let me divide the scriptures to show how some support the acquaintance friendship, while others tell us to avoid certain close friendships.
Scriptures that Show we Should Be Acquaintance Friends with People:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” Luke 6:27 ESV
And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth… 2 Timothy 2:24–26 (NIV)
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:31
These scriptures above clearly show that we are to be kind, loving, and “friends” to all people. We should love everyone as our self. Our neighbors are our friends, and we should love and respect all.
But again, at the same time we must make a distinction between the different types of friends. Should a Christian be hanging out constantly with a person who is not very Godly? Let us see what the scriptures say about this:
Scriptures that Show We Should Distance Ourselves from Inappropriate Friendships or People Who Reject God’s Will:
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV)
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Not only are those scriptures crystal clear, but look at what Jesus himself says regarding an unrepentant brother:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will bed bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will bee loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:15-19
That’s right folks, you have it from Jesus’ own lips. What more scriptures do you need? In the scriptures above, it is very clear that we are to NOT have the very close types of relationships with those who have NO interest in God’s will. This isn’t my instruction either, it is the scriptures’ instructions.
When we develop close relationships with those who reject God, we risk being influenced in a negative way. We risk being associated with certain ideology or beliefs that the other person may have. Let me just give you an example:
Extreme Example of Acquaintance Friendship: Let’s take 2 people on the opposite ends of the spectrum for an example: Billy Graham (the great pastor) and Marilyn Manson (very anti-Christian/Gothic rocker).
Now if Billy Graham was at the same place with Marilyn Manson (say it was some conference or something), he should absolutely be an acquaintance type friend. He should be nice to Marilyn, not rude or ignore him. He should set an example, and be kind and loving. That would be the appropriate Christian thing to do. There is nothing wrong with having a conversation or shaking hangs.
Extreme Example of a Close Friendship: Now let us suppose that Marilyn invites Billy Graham to hang out with him. Okay, no big deal, right? Perhaps Billy can eat lunch and share the gospel with Marilyn (even though Marilyn rips up bibles at his concerts and blasphemes God).
But now suppose suddenly Billy Graham is hanging with Marilyn every day. Suppose you see pictures of Billy Graham hugging Marilyn at his house (with big Satanic pictures in the background), and the two are playing Nintendo together. Here is where the problems come in, because 1 of 3 things will happen:
1. Billy Graham will have to compromise his beliefs in Christianity and be “slack” on it in order to fit in with Marilyn Manson’s worldview (religion). Or he will flat out lose the faith.
2. Marilyn Manson will have to convert to Christianity and follow it tightly in order to fit in with Billy Graham’s worldview. Or he will have to be extremely slack on his beliefs to the point where they don’t interfere.
3. Both Billy Graham and Marilyn Manson will each hold tight to their differing religious views on life. In this case, their friendship will naturally (and gradually) slide from a close friendship down to an acquaintance type friendship. Why? Because the 2 will simply disagree on way to many things. They will have little to nothing in common.
Not only that, but even a simple conversation can result in one of the two being offended. If Marilyn starts cursing or saying something inappropriate, Billy will probably be offended (and he should). If Billy starts to talk about God, or talk about a certain behavior as being a sin, Marilyn will probably be offended.
It isn’t too hard to imagine the differences that would arise when a person who rips the bible regularly hangs out with a person who preaches the bible regularly.
I am certainly not suggesting to have an arrogant or “I am better than you” type of attitude. This is not about being “holier than thou.” Instead, this is merely about following what the scriptures tell us. Don’t we have an obligation to follow the scriptures? Yes indeed.
Didn’t Jesus hang with sinners? Sure, but did not notice something: Jesus only hung with them to share the Gospel. Jesus viewed himself as a doctor trying to heal a “sick” person. He certainly didn’t hang with sinners for the thrill or exposure of sin, or because they had similar interests. He hung with them to try and save them.
Also notice another point: Jesus hung with them long enough to be friendly and share the gospel, and then moved on to other people and other areas. In other words, Jesus wasn’t BFFs (best friends forever) with people who rejected God’s will. In fact, Jesus even says he won’t know these people. He says they won’t inherit the Kingdom of God.
We are certainly all sinners aren’t we? But isn’t there a difference between committing a sin and repenting (and feeling terrible), and committing a sin and enjoying it (with no intentions of repenting)? There is a world of difference between those two. In fact, you might say that that is the difference between a Christian and non-Christian.
Both are sinners, yet one turns from sin and feels terrible. The other enjoys sin and does not seek to correct the sin or remove it. As the famous bumper sticker says, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.”
I once heard a great sermon by the late Adrian Rogers. He once said something like, “Sometimes when a person converts to Christianity they ask if they should leave their old friends. You won’t have to, your friends will probably leave you.”
This is the sad but often truth in life. When people develop 2 differing world-views (or religions), sharp differences arise and it is often best to simply not spend as much time together (simply because you won’t have as much in common). Either you will not enjoy hanging with your older friends as much, or they won’t enjoy hanging with you.
If you can imagine this whole friendship thing like a spectrum of extremes. On one hand you have a very light friendship, on the other a very close friendship. The spectrum can swing from one extreme to another. Here is simple example below:
The idea here is not that Christians should just “abandon ship” when they have non-Christian friends. But I think the scriptures are telling us to not be too involved with these people. So we would move the “O” above closer to the acquaintance type of friendship. This means to limit the time spent with people who are not on the same “page” as you (spiritually speaking). Especially if you tried to convert, and they wasn’t up for it, and still don’t like religion or God.
Again, this is just common sense, and will probably be the natural outcome anyway. If you are a true Christian, will you enjoy hanging out with someone if they are not doing God’s will? For example, if your friends talk about having promiscuous sex, drugs, partying, lying, pornography, music with curse words every 2 seconds, bad movies, going to clubs, and things like that?? Wouldn’t a true Christian feel uncomfortable in those cases?
And what about their political or social views? Should a true Christian be best friends with a person marching for gay rights? Or what about someone who supports abortions? What about a person who thinks there is nothing wrong with frivolous sex, cheating on a spouse, etc.?
At that point, what would the two have in common? They may still have some things in common, but certainly not many things. Also, it is a FACT that you will pick up some traits of your close friends. As the scripture says, “Bad morals corrupt good company.” If you are struggling to do God’s will, do you need extra temptation leading you astray? I don’t think so.
I am not trying to imply that non-Christians are all immoral people. There are a great many non-religious people who are very nice and relatively moral people. In fact, some non-Christians may even be more “moral” than some self-proclaimed “Christians.” That is certainly true isn’t it?
But the problem that arises is that if a person isn’t following God, what is their moral compass? Society? In that case, it will probably lead to differences in your views, and then, differences in the closeness of your friendship.
The main problem that arises is the differences in worldviews. As a Christian, it is your COMMAND to follow God’s moral code, and not mankind’s.
Do not EVER try to twist the bible to fit in with society or the world. It just won’t work folks (it never has and never will). Instead, twist yourself to fit in with the bible. That is the will of God, and the Christian goal. You must change your life to fit in with God’s will. It is impossible to twist God’s word as to make it compatible with society’s morals. It just won’t happen.