How many friends do you have that don’t know Christ? Better put, how many people who are not Christians would call you their friend? The statistics are clear; once the average person becomes a believer in Christ, he or she loses contact with all unbelieving friends within two years. This might be termed “pagan friend shedding.” Some shed themselves of their former relationships with unbelievers on purpose and some as a consequence of their new life. A misinterpretation of 2 Corinthians 6:14 might be used as justification: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” Therefore, many believe to be Christian means that we lose all association with unbelievers. But this is a wrong interpretation. Paul is not telling us not to have unbelieving friends, but not to join together with unbelievers in their practices and worldview. In other words, the yoking together means to join with them in their lifestyle and belief system, and, therefore, becoming like them. This does not mean that we are not to have unbelieving friends. Christians should have unbelieving friends. Let me give you four reasons why Christians should be intentional about having friends that do not know Christ.
Today more than ever we live in a world of hopelessness. People today are searching for something to believe, they just don’t know what and they don’t know where to go. The “religious leaders” of Christ’s day had this philosophy of “pagan friend shedding.” Seeing Christ eating and drinking with unbelievers (befriending them), they began to look down upon him. Christ responded by telling them that “it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick (Matt. 9:12). Sadly, many Christians today would, like the “religious leaders” look down upon Christ for giving hope to the sick.
Many of us have been in Christian circles so long that we don’t know what it is like in the world outside of Christianity. Our terminology and thought pattern can quickly turn into “folk theology.” “Folk theology” is having a belief or practice and not knowing why we have it or what it means. You may have quaint sayings or Christian clich鳠which, if challenged on them, you would be at a loss as to what they mean. In exclusive Christian circles, you may be able to get away with saying, “the Spirit moved,” but an unbeliever would challenge you saying, “What exactly does it mean that ‘the Spirit moved.’” Do you know? Having unbelieving friends keeps you real.
Believers sometimes feel that it is “unchristian” to ask tough questions. This should not be. Believers should always be the first to ask the tough questions. The earliest definition of theology given by Anselm in the 11th century was credo ut intelligam “faith seeking understanding.” Unbelievers struggle and have real tough questions that believers should pay attention to. For example, an unbeliever may have a real struggle with the doctrine of hell. Many believers would bypass the difficulties of the question saying that it does not bother them because the Bible teaches it. It’s the “the Bible says it, that does it” mentality. While it is true that the Bible teaches it, it is a great difficulty that believers need to recognize. Hell brings great distress to the heart of unbelievers, and it should bring great distress to our heart as well. Hell is a reality, but some people make the doctrine of hell very cold. Unbelievers ask good questions that believers need to have seriously struggled with and considered.
Christ was on a mission to reconcile the world to Himself. He had both unbelieving friends and believing friend. He sought to win the lost and to disciple the won. There was a great balance in his ministry. If you want to follow Christ’s example, associate with all those in need. The Kingdom will be here soon. Let us keep our focus straight. The one thing we will not be able to do in heaven is to bring an unbeliever to Christ. Let us have unbelieving friends.