thisisthestuff732 asked: Hey Unka Glen, in light of the verses 2 Corinthians 6:14 and 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, how do you distinguish when its okay to be friends with unbelievers and hang out with them? [edited for length]
Unka Glen answered: Here are the verses you mentioned:
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
1 Corinthians 5:9-11 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
Paul is pointing to the idea of influence. He’s saying that in order to be an influence on a world that is struggling to find God, you obviously need to have some kind of relationship with them. Indeed, in 1 Timothy 3:7 Paul says that Christian leaders need to have a good reputation with those outside the faith.
Of course, if people who are lost on their journey to find God are influencing your thinking, eventually they might get you lost too, and nobody benefits from that. So it makes sense that we should have various kinds of friendships with all kinds of people, and to learn and grow from those relationships, but to make sure that we share about the salvation we’ve found.
It’s possible to divide all your relationships into people who are further along in their relationship with the Lord than you, and people who are less further along, and then you can look to be an influence to those who are less further along, and to be influenced by those more further along. That’s the goal.
But the last part of those verses is the part that Christians really ignore. The part about not associating with people who claim to be Christians, but who focus on money, or fame, or their own pleasures. Paul’s not talking about Christians who know they’re doing wrong stuff, and are working on it, he’s talking about people who manipulate others, and declare it righteous.
I hear Christians use the phrase “eat the meat and spit out the bones”, meaning they take the good words from crooked or clueless Christian leaders, and they reject the bad words from those leaders. That’s a LONG way from the command to not even eat with such people.
In the end, it’s better to have friends outside the faith who respect your walk, and are open to what you have to say about Jesus, than to have Christian relationships that are a bad for your walk. Jesus was called “a friend of sinners”, and He got there by publicly rejecting religious ugliness, and replacing that with a message of forgiveness, freedom, and grace.