As a Christian (and a pastor, at that!) I can easily get into the rut of the infamous ‘Christian Bubble’ and end up only associating with other Christians.
How un-Christlike this is.
How ineffective for ministry.
How blind it makes me toward the “real” world.
Hanging with unbelieving friends is not tolerated in the Bible. It is encouraged. Jesus himself was no stranger to “sinners.” And for good reason: He came to seek and save the lost. Is our mission strategy any different? Most studies show that the vast majority of conversions occur through close relationships. Are we intentionally forming those? Operative word there: intentionally.
That’s a punch in my nose.
Jesus approaching a sinner
In Mark 2:13-17, Jesus approaches Levi (a.k.a. Matthew) “sitting at the tax booth.” Tax collectors back then were considered by society to be the worst of the worst. They were pretty awful, corrupt people due to their greed and scheming. Yet Jesus, and we should learn from this, befriends Matthew. He asks this unchurched man to follow him around for the next few years.
Then we read in verse 15 that that night, other “sinners” were comfortable enough in Jesus’ presence to join him for dinner.
So what does that mean for us?
It’s important as a Christian to radiate the kind of presence that attracts nonbelievers. Two things to consider with this.
First, that mean don’t go around “Bible thumping” everyone, telling everyone about their sin. Jesus doesn’t do this and neither should we. In fact, the only people he calls out are the religious people (Pharisees and Sadducees) who think they’re morally superior to everyone else! Now, your friends need to know you follow Christ in how you speak and act; but don’t complicate things: Be a human and treat them like humans. Like, just be a good friend.
Second, make sure you are the influencer of the situation. Way too many well-meaning, professing Christians have abandoned their faith over time because of the friend group they associate with. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
If you pursue a non-Christian as a friend and, in time, discover that you are spiraling away from Christ, then pull back some on the friendship. Something’s gotta change. There’s too much at stake. Further, as this proverb helps us see, you should never possess only non-Christian friends.
In many ways, we are who we befriend. So let’s make sure you’ve surrounded yourself with solid believers and bring non-believers into that environment.
So, our default, like Jesus’, should always be to lean in to the non-Christian world, not shy away, praying constantly for a godly influence in a godless world.
Copyright © 2019 by Justin Talbert @ https://getgroundedministries.com . Used with permission.
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