Bible Reading: Matthew 11: 16-19
He [Jesus] is a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Matthew 11:19, NCV
FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD Megan became a Christian three weeks ago. Now she’s faced with tough choices in living out her new life. Some of her new friends at church, for example, are telling her to drop her non-Christian friends. “They’ll influence you the wrong way. You need Christian friends now,” they insist. Do you agree?
Admit it: Relationships are a major influence. So it’s no minor point when people argue that you need close Christian friends. You need them because you can count on them for strength and encouragement while you grow as a Christian.
But your non-Christian friendships are important also — for different reasons. First, you are the best person to win your non-Christian friends to Christ. And there’s a second reason to stay friends: If you ditch them, they could blame Christ for losing you as a friend. Then if someone tells them about becoming a Christian, their response could be, “Yeah, sure, and trash all my friends? No way!”
An exception to that rule: If your non-believing friends are a negative influence on you, you have to distance yourself enough to play it safe. When you back off, give them the option of coming closer to Christ. Let the rejection come from them, not the other way around.
One warning: If you spend time with non-Christians to win them to Christ, you might catch it on both ends. Non-Christians may mock you because you won’t get involved in some of their activities, and Christian friends might reject you because they assume you’re diving into sin. If that happens, take heart. You’re in great company.
Because he spent time with a tough crowd, some people saw Christ as “a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of the worst sort of sinners!” (Matthew 11 :19). And because he spent time with sinners, the self-righteous Pharisees criticized him.
The best way to shut down that gossip, of course, is to win at least one of your non-Christian friends to Christ. The new believer will set the record straight. But in the meantime, don’t stop reaching out to your non-Christian friends — and don’t get mad at your Christian friends. Just press on and do what Jesus did. Show God’s love to all of them.
REFLECT: How well does it work for you to have both Christian and non-Christian friends?
PRAY: Ask God to help you deal with the tensions of living like Jesus did — loving both believers and non-believers.