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?
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
“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).
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:
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.