The Lord Jesus was perfectly comfortable in the company of unbelievers. He was accused of being a drunk and glutton due to frequenting the houses and feasts of those whom the Jews regarded unclean. The apostle Paul expected Christians to rub shoulders with unchurched people. 1 Cor 5:9-10, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. (10) Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” If we are to be witnesses and share the gospel in a meaningful way, we must follow the example of Christ and the apostles. Christ was a friend to sinners. How can the church truly be salt and light if we are insular and hidden away? We must build bridges. We must be accessible. We must be friendly.
The concepts of salt and light, however, also means that the Christian lifestyle and message has a pointy end. Salt and light are confrontational. Light exposes the sinfulness of the heart. Salt stings the open wound of corruption. We need to be careful that in our desire to connect with non-Christian people, we don’t do it in such a way that the sharpness of the Gospel is lost. Making friends is not the mission and friendliness alone will not save. Friendship cannot come at the expense of godly living and clear testimony.
* The work of Christ in response to human guilt will always be offensive to the natural man. 1 Cor 1:23, “we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” In warmth, love and free of self-righteousness we must be straight with non-Christian people. Without repentance there is no salvation. A friendship that is afraid of offending is a false friendship. Furthermore, it undermines the truth.
* When spending time with non-Christians we must be careful that we are not influenced by their standards. 1 Cor 15:33, “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Too much time spent in the presence of the unchurched and very easily can we be drawn into their world. Let us remember as we mingle, we are engaged in spiritual warfare.
* There are situations that we must not get involved with. 1 Peter 4:3-4, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. (4) In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.” It is unwise to go into environments of unrestrained sin. To do so we dilute the message. Our presence communicates the sense that such behaviour is okay. Furthermore, we put ourselves at risk.
Engaging with unconverted colleagues, family members and neighbours does not mean casually accepting sinful lifestyles. It means that we lovingly and guardedly make room for them in our lives. It means that we engage by setting appropriate boundaries. Paul was all things to all men, yet under the law to Christ. We must seek the Lord’s wisdom as we walk the line of living in the world, and not being of the world.