Should Christians Have Non Christian Friends?

by Jack Wellman on July 7, 2013 · Print Print · Email Email

Should believers have non-Christian friends? Can we be friends with those outside of the Body of Christ, the church? What does the Bible say about this?

Unequally Yoked

When Paul was writing to the church at Corinth, he was dealing with a very worldly church. The fact that they were living in one of the most sinful cities in the world did not help. We know that God does not want believers to date or to marry those outside of the faith. This is what is meant by being unequally yoked in marriage. This is part of the reason Paul wrote to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols” (2 Corinthians 14-16). When a believer willingly marries an unbeliever and knows that they should not do so the “two will become one flesh” (1 Corinthians 6:16c) and so it is like mixing water and oil. They will not ever mix and there will be constant friction in the marriage, as well as in child rearing. But what about being friends with non-believers? This may be what Paul referred to when he said that light and darkness do not mix.

Darkness and Light

It is clear that we should not be unequally yoked in marriage but what about in friendship? There is nothing in itself wrong with being friends with an unbeliever but if the Christian finds himself or herself being brought into places that do not reflect the believer’s life, then this friendship is not in their best interests. I have friends who are not Christians but I draw the line in going to certain places where a Christian should not go. I also hold to a certain standard in which movies I don’t see, in music I don’t listen to, and in conversations that I cannot in good conscience partake in. Again, Paul tells believers

" ... what fellowship has light with darkness?"

” … what fellowship has light with darkness?”

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

When Paul uses the phrase “do not be unequally yoked” he may be referring to the Old Testament command to not yoke animals together that are clean and unclean like an ox and an donkey (Deuteronomy 22:10). One is clean but the other is not and this is an abomination to God. When these two are yoked together, they will work against each other. One will want to go one way while the other will pull another way. One will work harder than the other. If a believer is too closely tied to an unbeliever, the unbeliever can drag or pull the believer into areas that are not godly. God tells us to “come out from among them” because while we have to live in the world, we are not to be part of the world. In Revelation “a voice from heaven say(s): “‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). Paul reiterates this by saying, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). The meaning of the word “sanctified” is to be set apart for holy use and we must be separate from the world while still living in the world. It is clear from the Bible that “bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Conclusion

We can not completely disassociate ourselves from the world and from those who are in the world. It is fine to be friends with non-believers to a point but our best friends should be those in the Body of Christ, the church. Being friends with the world is dangerous ground for the Christian as James wrote, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). We are told, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them” (1 John 2:15). This is not our Father’s world…we are pilgrims who are living in a temporary land that is not ours. The world that is to come in the Kingdom of Heaven is our future home. If we must be friends with non-Christians, let us exercise caution and draw a line in the sand. We can be their friends and use our friendships as a way to share the gospel both by our words and by the love that we show them but we cannot be too closely associated with them because light and darkness have no fellowship together. We are the children of the light and we must come out of the world even while we are living in it.

If you have not yet repented, confessed your sins to God, and placed your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then you are still living in darkness and there awaits you a certain fearful judgment that is beyond description. Today, if you will not harden your hearts anymore, you can receive eternal life in Jesus Christ by believing in Him and receive saving faith. The truth is that “now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2) and so “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15). If you wait, it may be too late for no one has any guarantee that tomorrow may come (Proverbs 27:1).

Take a look at this related article:

Unequally Yoked?

Resources – New International Version Bible (NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.



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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean-marc July 7, 2013 at 5:29 am

Thanks for this article may God bless

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Jack Wellman July 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Thank you Jean-marc. I am thankful for encouragers like you my friend and to which I thank God for.

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susie July 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm

“I draw the line in going to certain places where a Christian should not go. I also hold to a certain standard in which movies I don’t see, in music I don’t listen to, and in conversations that I cannot in good conscience partake in.”

Why would I want to be a christian when according to this article the main difference is what we must not, cannot do? I am a believer and growing up in this mindset caused me to fear non-christians as dangerous to be around. Today I am re-learning how to love everyone and not distance myself from the very ones who need to know the God that I know.

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Jack Wellman July 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Thank you for your critique and comment. I will take it to heart.

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Erik July 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I respectfully disagree with your analysis of this article.

This article is not about a bunch of rules in my opinion.

Personally, I don’t see what is wrong with the following statement: “I draw the line in going to certain places where a Christian should not go. I also hold to a certain standard in which movies I don’t see, in music I don’t listen to, and in conversations that I cannot in good conscience partake in.”

Either we are all in as followers of Christ or we are not. We do not make exceptions. There has to be differences in how we live our lives.

I have some long time non-Christian friends but I will not compromise my belief just because they are long time friends. It has nothing to do with fearing non-Christians. Hardly! But, if I immerse myself in the world the world will overcome me. I won’t see trash at the movie theater just to spend time with an unsaved friend. Nor, would I expect to hang out in a bar with unsaved friends just to try and be a light in a very dark place.

Just my two cents and I do not mean to come across as critical to your comments.

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Jack Wellman July 7, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Thank you Erik. I had a friend invite me to his bachelor party and they began to bring out the nasty videos and I left. I also had a former boss who was a non-Christian friend of mine invite me and many in his staff (men only) to celebrate with him over the companies anniversary and sales record. They went to a place that had women strippers. The two above scenarios are what I mean when I say I draw the line at going to certain places. Is this legalism or is it avoiding sinful situations? Is this about “a bunch of rules?” Yes….rules, many of which, are made to not break. Just my two cents my friend. Do you see my point that I was trying to make Erik? Maybe I did a poor job of it though and anyway, I thank you sir for your comment. You are always welcome her.

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Nikita July 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Jack, as usual a masterpiece. I was just discussing this very topic with a friend the other day. You have now provided more insightful information on the topic. Thank you once again. God is always with you.

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Jack Wellman July 7, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Hello Nikita. What an encouraging comment my friend but truly I can do nothing of myself and the true Master of this “masterpiece” is of course Jesus and not me. In any event, I still thank you so much.

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Steven July 8, 2013 at 11:07 am

This is a great article, though not one of my favorites.

It is okay to have non Christian friends but you do have to draw a line and put your foot down on certain things. There is so much evil in this world and we don’t even notice it because we ourselves are evil. Look what happened to Lot and his daughters. You hang around sin too much and it will destroy all righteousness within you.

Try not to go out of your way for sin.

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Nathan July 8, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Hi, Jack.

I think there are different ways to consider this. I personally feel bad for Christians who feel their faith is so fragile that they cannot mingle with non-Christians, for fear that they will be lead down the wrong path.

If we use Christ as our example, we would find our circle of friends to be much more diverse, considering his close circle of friends included tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and other unsavory characters of the time. He seemed to prefer these people, who were in such great need of His teaching and leadership and saving.

If we isolate ourselves from non-Christians, we miss out on many opportunities to minister to people who would not otherwise hear the Word. So many non-Christians have the perception of the church as being very judgemental and intimidating which, I believe, scares them away. Simply by being open about being a Christian AND being their friend is a ministry in itself that can lead to much more meaningful things.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d walk out of the room with the porn and the strippers as well, but the next day I would still be that person’s friend, and perhaps take the opportunity to talk to them about why I had to leave that room. Maybe that conversation would lead to more meaningful discussions that they would never have, had a Christian not remained their friend, despite their sins.

In all honesty, I feel that the moment we, as Christians, are unwilling to get our hands dirty, like Christ did, we lose our effectiveness as evangelists. We are called on to love EVERYONE, and part of loving someone is being their friend.

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susie July 8, 2013 at 9:45 pm

I love how you explained this.

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Jack Wellman July 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Thank you Nathan. I agree with your saying “as Christians, are unwilling to get our hands dirty, like Christ did, we lose our effectiveness as evangelists. We are called on to love EVERYONE, and part of loving someone is being their friend.” No where in this article did I differ from this and say that we should not have Christian friends or not love “EVERYONE” as you put in bold caps. I can see many have taken this article the wrong way and perhaps I did a poor job of writing it. I never said we should not have non-Christian friends anywhere in this article and that we should not love everyone so I am puzzled why you hated this so much. Thanks just the same.

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Nathan July 9, 2013 at 8:17 am

Jack, perhaps it is I that did a poor job of explaining. I didn’t hate your article at all, I was just adding my thoughts. :)

No, you didn’t say that we should not have non-Christian friends, however with certain phrases such as “It is fine to be friends with non-believers to a point but our best friends should be those in the Body of Christ, the church.”, I think you need to be careful, because some will read that as “If you have to have non-Christian friends, well, that’s ok, but it’s better to have Christian friends”. It’s a slight variation, but one that could lead to people to avoid non-Christians altogether, thus eliminating their opportunities to share the Word with people who really need to hear it.

At any rate, I hope this clears things up. I think you are doing a wonderful job, and opening the opportunity for Christians to talk about real issues, which, in many ways, can lead to greater understanding of our faith than simply sitting back and listening to sermons. Keep up the good work!

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Jack Wellman July 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Thank you Nathan. I apologize. I believe I overreacted and have no excuse for it. I am sorry. I had a bad day I believe on this article got hammered on our Facebook page when it was posted (still no excuse) and seriously I should have done a better job at saying what you said to well in your first comment. Again sir, I am sorry. Thank you for your patience Nathan.

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Nathan July 10, 2013 at 8:12 am

No problem, Jack, we all have those days, and I would imagine that being as unyielding in the truth as you are, and the criticism that brings, you probably have more than most. The world is full of trolls, and it seems to be in vogue these days to bash Christians for their beliefs.

But not to worry, even Jesus lost his temper from time to time (the story of the merchants in the Temple comes to mind), so we can hardly expect to do better than Him! :) I think that’s one of the most wonderful things about our Lord. As much as he showed (and continues to show) us the righteous path, He also showed His humanity, allowing us to be more accepting of our own. (Would love to see an article from you on that!)

Hang in there, Jack, and keep doing what you do. God is clearly behind your efforts here, so despite having some bad days, you can rest assured that they are worth it.

This was my first time visiting your site, and I look forward to more healthy discussion in the days to come.

Mick July 9, 2013 at 9:19 am

Hello Jack,
I read this article and the comments, then I reread it. The way I see it, what you have written is supported by scripture and is non-judgmental. I look back at a lot of the lost time in my life, literally and figuratively, and I realize what an effect my choice of “friends” had. From personal experience I can say compromising anything takes us to the edge of a slippery slope. There is a huge difference between a friend and an associate; are we “friends” because of common behaviors or because of common beliefs, or a combination of the two? What I take from this article is that we must always be aware of the effects relationships can have on our walk with the Lord as well as how our actions affect others. Great article!

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Nikita July 9, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Mick, I couldn’t have put it better myself. I had the same understanding of the article as you did, and I have no doubt that those are the points Jack was trying to get across.

If a Christian has friends that he/she knows will never want to hear the word of our Lord, he/she must guard against being misled by such friends. Can this really be seen as ‘friendship’? Besides, it is unlikely that the majority of the morals and values of the Christian and non-Christian will be similar in such circumstances.

This does not mean that one cannot or shouldn’t have non-Christian friends. On the contrary: how else can one minister more effectively than to those who trust you and may even love you?

These are just my thoughts (right or wrong), and I have in no way put myself across as eloquently as Jack or Mick, but I hope it’s understandable.

God bless you both.

Yours in Christ,
Nikita

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Jack Wellman July 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Thank you Mick. I appreciate your words of encouragement so much my friend. I believe I could have added what Nathan stated so elequently and what you and Nikita both included. That is why I am so blessed to have such edifying readers who are full of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by their words. I thank God for you and NIkita too…and for Nathan, and yes, Kris too….oh yes, Jack H too. Thank you all.

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Jack H July 9, 2013 at 3:10 pm

You heard our fellow Christian, Nathan here, your articles are wonderful, well-written and inspired by the Bible as USUAL! :DD Oh, and I happened to stumble upon a report about corruption. Not corruption just on a political scale, but on a judicial scale, media scale, and even a MEDICAL SCALE! I checked the rate of corruption for the countries provided. The rate here in Britain is 5%, but the rate in your country is 7%. So slightly more corrupt than here in Blighty. But the most corrupt country ever is Sierra Lione in Africa, with a rate in 84%!! Pastor Jack, I truly feel sorry for our fellow African Christians who have to put up with this rubbish. I try to obey the British Government’s laws wherever possible. But when they are going to allow same-sex marriage soon, I will NOT be up for the offer. Well, been nice sharing this with you, and I hope we meet each other in Heaven someday. Bye-bye!! Jack H

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Jack Wellman July 9, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Hello Jack H. What a tragedy indeed. How sad that money had become more important that human beings. Think of this though…they will not lose their reward and these who are doing such things will not get away with anything but you are so right sir…we need to be praying for justice to come to those who are abusing their power in Sierra Lione in Africa and African Christians in general. Thanks for bringing this up. Please do come back again Jack H. May God richly bless you and praying for Jesus to come back soon to end all this abuse of power and corruption.

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Derek Hill July 9, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Nice article Jack. I agree with you 100%. If unbelievers are bringing you to places you shouldn’t go, it is better to leave for sure. Blessings on youbrother! Another job well done friend!

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Jack Wellman July 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Thanks Derek. You are always an encouarager Barnabas….no, Derek. I get you two mixed up! LOL

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Robert July 10, 2013 at 7:07 am

Great article, Jack. Christians do not have to be ‘afraid’ of coming into contact with non-Christians, but it is also unwise to immerse ourselves in a God-less environment indiscriminately. “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals”” (I Corinthians 15:33 ESV). God bless you, brother.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Jack Wellman July 10, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Thanks Robert. As always, your words are a Barnabas to me. Hope all is well with you brother.

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Jennifer June 27, 2014 at 1:13 am

Pastor Jack, I’ve found you again! Amen! You’re article is well written and I get it! You are such an encouragement to me as I’ve been seeking out reading about Christian marriages and relationships. I’m grateful for your words of wisdom.

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Jack Wellman June 27, 2014 at 7:28 am

Hello Jennifer. You sure know how to make a person’s day. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am glad to “hear” from you again too. May God richly bless your search for your subject matter and it sounds like a good one!

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Beverly August 3, 2014 at 2:14 pm

First of all,
let’s define a friend , according to Merriam Webster – A friend is a person who you like and enjoy being with.

So if you are walking with God and enjoy spending time with God and you are a friend of God, how can you be friend with someone who does not have, know or love God.
What do you guys talk about.

Now you can have acquaintances, co-workers( you have lunch with) and so forth, you can go to a party you are invited to by an unbeliever, but beyond that, I don’t know what a believer and an unbeliever hanging out together will have to discuss.

We are a separated people, consecrated, we are princes and princesses of the most high God. How many Friends do Prince Harry and William have who are not royalty or who don’t think or act like royals. I can assure you, not very many if any at all.
We have to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. You don’t have to be somebody’s “friend” to be able to evangelize to them. Being friendly and being friends is something different.
I don’t know how to enjoy spending time with someone who believes in sex before marriage , or that gays were “born that way”, or that you shouldn’t “force” your believe system on others and that everyone should be free to do as they see fit as long as “it makes them happy”.

If you enjoy spending time with such people and you are a believer, I will tell you right now , that your mind has NOT yet been transformed.
Remember, you are the average of your five closest friends.

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