The Friends We Keep

I read a social media post where a person said they had deleted “certain people” from their friends list because they followed Jesus and their friends were a reflection of who they were. This person was absolutely right, your friends are a reflection of who your are in Christ. Think then who was Jesus friends with and remember that Jesus was criticized by the religious for the types of friend he kept.

Luke 7:34
The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!

Jesus kept friends with sinners, the unwanted, the unloved, the despised because He wanted to share His love with everyone and bring them hope. This was completely different and radical thinking for the religious people at the time who were caught up with outward holiness, the appearance of righteousness, looking the part and playing church. All the while the religious folks were just as messed up inside as everybody else, and if not, more so, with their hearts far from God.

Matthew 15:8-9
8 This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

Mark 12:38-40
38 And in his teaching he said, Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.

The religious were so self-righteous and holy that they not only could not be associated with other religious folks who did not meet their self-imposed standards, and even more tragic was that they were even too good to be seen or associated with sinners / unsaved.

Matthew 7:3-5
3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye, when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Some often quote the following portion of Romans 12:2  “…be not be conformed to this world…” and disregard its context, thinking it refers to all the horrible sinners or “those people” who do not every hold every little theology quirk they do and hide in their little religious bubbles. This is one of those scriptures that must be read in it’s entirety, for it reads, “…be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” We are being called to think differently, and called out of our worldly ways of thinking and selfishness, to have the love of Jesus in us, so that others might see Jesus through us.

What about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers?

2 Corinthians 6:14-15
14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial (Gk. Beliar or Belial, from a Hebrew. term meaning “worthlessness” or possibly “destruction”)? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers“, this command is Paul’s main point in 6:14–7:1. To be “unequally yoked” is to be “hitched up” and is thus an example of being allied or identified wrongly with unbelievers. In context, it refers to those who are still rebelling against Paul within the church, whom Paul labels as unbelievers (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul was writing about the legalists who were going back to the law and doctrines of men to save themselves were making grace and the cross null and void. By doing this they really did not believe in it’s power to save them because the only justification is through the cross.

Paul was not telling us to hate or to exile these people, but exhorting us not to ally ourselves with these people and become as they were. Always remember that the heart of the gospel is love and that we are called to be salt and light and examples of truth in the darkness; we cannot be seen if we are hidden.

Matthew 5:13-16
13 You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 14 You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

If we hide and do not let our light shine, how can God’s love in us been seen by others? If we are not salt, which preserves and brings out the flavor and enhances food, how can the world benefit from our flavor if we keep our salt on the shelf? Jesus was very clear that we need to be less concerned with lifting up ourselves over others and judging others to make ourselves appear more holy than another. It is all about Jesus, and whatever we do should be for the glory of our Heavenly Father for everyone to know and praise Him.

I have seen people “unfriend” others who did not share the same views they did or because their righteousness was greater than those they “unfriended“. We have all been guilty of this on social media sites and in our own lives. When somebody leaves our church, changes denominations or shares a different view than we do, suddenly we can no longer be friends. This is a very sad and unchristian way of thinking. Paul spoke about quarreling over disagreements and keeping unity in Christ.

Ephesians 4:1-4
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each others faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

Ephesians 4:31-32
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

In truth we must also be careful who we associate with, and have the spiritual maturity to not become allied with “unbelievers” so that we fall. The point of this article is not to ask people to go become as “unbelievers“, but to be examples to others by allowing them to know us. Not everyone is spiritually capable of being salt and light, without their salt losing it’s flavor and their light going out. This should not should not be the final state in one’s Christian walk, but a temporal one. Our inability to have unsaved friends, or friends that do not share the same theologies we do, is not a sign of spiritual maturity, but of spiritual immaturity.

Remember we are called to the world, to go into it, be examples of Jesus, share His love, and be seen by what we do as a reflection of Christ; to be salt and light. We cannot be witnesses if we are not witnessed, and when we are witnessed, do people want what we have or do they run from it?

2 Replies to “The Friends We Keep”

  1. Awesomely written. There’s a big difference between having friends that don’t don’t follow the gospel and compromising your own gospel standards. Jesus tarried amongst the sinner, but did not sin. And we are asked to be even as He is. I’m not saying it’s easy. We are not as cool as Him. But it’s what he exemplified and asked us to do.

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