Non-Christian friends

Non-Christian friends

There is a pattern that repeats in the lives of so many people once they become a Christian. Before someone comes to know Jesus, commonly their families are not Christian, and all of their friends are not Christian. Now, their lives have changed in many ways. They become passionate about the Bible and church and so they spend a great deal of time in groups and services at church. They also become less interested in many aspects of their previous life, which means that they stop some previous activities and their free time looks quite different from before. Without meaning to, they are spending less time with their previous friends, while making many new friends at church.

There is something natural about this pattern. But there is something important that is lost.

Jesus shakes up this pattern in Matthew 9, among other places, when he approaches a tax collector to follow him. He actively seeks out a man who is looked down upon, an obvious sinner with many issues, and calls him. Afterwards, he willingly attends a party at the tax collector’s house and associates with this man’s friends: surely a loud, irreligious lot. When criticized for being there, Jesus says that it is the sick that need a doctor, not the well. God cares for sinners, and they need Jesus, and Jesus is seeking them out.

We are all in danger of becoming Pharisees in how we judge others and justify ourselves. And this can flow into our choice of friends. We feel comfortable in the presence of Christians, who share our core beliefs and live in ways more in line with how we live. Those who are not Christian think differently, live differently, and not always in ways we are happy with. The obvious response is simply to spend more time with our Christian friends. That might be comfortable for us, but it is not following the example of Jesus. We need to be salt and light, we need to influence the world and present Jesus to others, and we cannot do that if we never spend time with non-Christians.

I am sure there were things at Matthew’s party that Jesus would not have done himself, perhaps language he would disapprove of. But he was there. They knew that Jesus cared for them enough to spend time with them.

Do you have friends who are not Christian? Do you seek out those relationships or run from them? I fear too often Christians remove themselves from possible friendships at work or where they live because it is uncomfortable; we need to do better than this. Seek out new friendships with people who don’t know Jesus. Personally, I have found playing golf with strangers has led to some interesting conversations. If you have kids, the parents of your kids’ friends at sports or school pickup give you opportunities. If you work or go to uni, many in your classes won’t be Christian. Build friendships. Understand them and love them. Pray for them. They need Jesus, even if they don’t know it yet, and they need Christians to spend time with them and present them with real hope.

Don’t swap what is critical for a life that is simply comfortable for you.