This article is about friendship, and specifically friendship to unbelievers.

Source: Clarion, 1992. 2 pages.

Non-Christian Friends

A while ago I wrote an article about believers marrying unbelievers. I made the point that the Bible simply does not allow a believer to marry an unbeliever. After that article was published I received a request from a mother of several teenaged children to write something about friendships with unbelievers. Some of her children chum around a lot with young people who are not Christians. And that concerns her.

May We have Non-Christian Friends?🔗

It is difficult to give a blanket answer to this question. There are several things to consider, several questions to ask. First, why would a person enter into a friendship with an unbeliever? The answer to that question largely determines the answer we would give to the question whether we may have friendships with unbelievers. If you have unbelievers as your friends because you enjoy doing the same things, you have the same interests, and you like the same sorts of entertainment, I would say you are walking on slippery ground. But if you have made friends with unbelievers so that you might get to know them and so be in a good position to speak to them about salvation from sin through the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are involved in a praiseworthy enterprise.

We have all had peddlers of various anti-Christian religions knock on our doors propagating their beliefs. If you are like me, your hackles rise as they flood your doorsteps with their torrent of dire prophecies and quick fix answers. Do you know why your skin begins to crawl? Because total strangers, with whom you have no relationship whatsoever, have invaded your home and are warning you of the terrible things that are in store for those who don't subscribe to their religion.

The devil's claws are long. The packed meeting halls of the various cults testify to their length. The cults seem to have success peddling heresy door to door. However, I would argue that we should not adopt this method of spreading the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to speak effectively to someone about his sin, his need for a Savior, and about the Savior God has given, you need to know that person. You need to have befriended him.

Should we have unbelievers as friends? Yes! Befriend your unbelieving neighbors! Then they will come to see that being a Christian means more than doing peculiar things like going to church early Sunday morning while the rest of the neighborhood sleeps in. They will see how your faith affects every aspect of your life, spiritual and material. You will then have created a good climate for an effective communication of the true gospel.

I suspect that we are weak in this area. How many of us befriend people in our communities so “… that by our godly walk of life we may win our neighbors for Christ" (Lord's Day 32)?

I also suspect that most of us who do have friendships with unbelievers are not forging these relationships in order to create a suitable environment for speaking to people about the Lord Jesus Christ. We are more likely to form such friendships because of the mutual appreciation for similar forms of entertainment and leisure activities. If you have unbelievers as friends only because you like doing the same things and you like hanging out at the same places, then you are walking in a deadly direction. Do not be deceived:

Bad company ruins good morals. 1 Corinthians 15:33

When it comes to enjoying leisure time with others, we should seek our friends from among the friends of the Lord Jesus Christ. In John 15:12ff, the Lord Jesus calls us His friends. He has laid down His life for us, His friends. That's what we have in common. That is what binds us together. How can we have a deep relationship of friendship with someone with whom we do not share the most basic thing in life: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Let us not think that we are so strong that the unchristian morals of an unbeliever will not ruin our Christian morals.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.1 Corinthians 10:12

Sadly, it often happens that young people of the church are drawn away from the Lord because of friendships with unbelievers. It is easy for us to be judgmental about these young people, to shake our heads and pronounce that we "… saw it coming a long time ago." If you saw it coming, why did you sit back and not say anything? It is easy to fulminate at young people who are drawn away by bad friendships. That takes little talent. Perhaps we should examine ourselves.

Why are young people drawn away? What are we doing to keep them in the fold?

It happens that people are drawn away by bad friendships despite earnest warnings and pleadings of parents, friends, office bearers, etc. But it also happens that people drift away without anyone saying anything or making an effort to keep them in. We just shake our heads and say: "Tsk-tsk." Or people drift away and find friends outside of the community of faith because they are not accepted within the community. No one wants to be their friend. It happens. They are thought to be rather weird. "The guy's a geek, man. I mean, he's a real dweeb, like a total loser!" We are social beings. Everyone needs a friend. If someone is shut out of the church community, he will find friends outside of the community. At whom, then, should we fulminate? Perhaps we are to blame.

Every young person in the church is a child of Cod. Each has the promises. Baptism proves it. What did the Lord Jesus say about our siblings, our fellow children of God? Did the Lord say: "You've only got to like the good looking ones; make friendships only with the ones who have scintillating personalities"? No. 

The Lord said:

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. And then He went to warn us with the following words: But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 10:5,6

A serious warning. Let's take it to heart. Let us never be guilty of causing a fellow young Christian to feel excluded and so cause him to sin by seeking his friendships in the midst of unbelievers and those who scoff at the Word of God. For then we are baring our necks to receive a great millstone.

Let us seek our friends from among the friends of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we love the Lord Jesus Christ, we will love those whom the Lord loves. If we are a member of His body, we will want to associate with His and our fellow members.

But let us not be frightened to make friends with our pagan neighbors; however, let us do so for the right reasons. Let us not be selfish but selfless in this and establish such friendships, so that we may be in a good position to speak to them about the Lord Jesus Christ, our love for Him and our service of Him.

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