Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Let’s start by realizing that the Lord wants us to be friendly with everyone.    Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…”  We should show the love of Christ to all men and be ready to help as the Lord provides the opportunity.  Galatians 6:10 instructs us, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”  So, as believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, we should be friendly and be willing to do good to everyone, no matter who they are.  After all, we represent Christ in this world so we need to be very careful to represent Him well.

As far as having close friendships with unbelievers, we need to be so careful.  2 Corinthians 6:14-15 says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”  A yoke is used to bind two animals together so they can work together.  We usually think of the yoke that oxen wear as they turn a grinding wheel together.  Working together makes the work lighter for both.  So, to us, a yoke is something that binds us together with someone else.  Here we are told that we should not be yoked together with unbelievers.  Notice that we are not to be ‘unequally yoked’ together with unbelievers.  That makes it clear that to be bound to an unbeliever is an unequal tie.  Typically, we think of this as marriage, and rightfully so.  However, the application goes beyond just marriage.  Should a Christian date an unbeliever?  No.  Should a Christian be close friends with an unbeliever as your question asks?  Again, the answer would be NO.  In the verses we just read, we read, “what communion has light with darkness?”  If you are close friends with an unbeliever, what is the common ground?  What is your relationship based on?  Is it based on mutual love for the Lord?  No it’s not.  For the Christian to have a close friendship with an unbeliever, you must find something else that you have in common…something other than the Lord.  This is where the danger comes in.   1 Corinthians 15:33 tells us, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.”  Let me quote that verse from the New American Standard version, which makes the meaning a little more clear.  It says, “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals.”  So, to have a close companion that is not saved has a corrupting influence on Christians.  To have a close relationship with someone who is not saved, just because you find yourself attracted to that person is not good.  James 4:4 says, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

However, isn’t it true that the Lord Jesus had friends that were not saved?  Yes, that is true.  In Luke 7:34 the Lord was called, “a friend of publicans and sinners” because he associated with unbelievers.  The Lord was criticized because of his friendship with unbelievers in Matthew 9:10-11 – “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Teacher with the publicans and sinners?”  In verse 12, we have the Lord’s reply to this charge, “But when he heard it, he said, They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.”  These people were sick and the Lord was there as a physician to heal them.  The Lord was there for a purpose.  His desire was to lead them to salvation.

So, is your friendship with unbelievers a friendship with a purpose?  Is it your sincere desire to get acquainted with an unbeliever so that you might lead them to the Lord Jesus for salvation?  That is an honorable friendship.  However, be careful.  Either you will influence your friend, or your friend will influence you.  There’s no way around this.  If this person continues to refuse your attempts to lead them to Christ, you may find it necessary to withdraw from that relationship.  You should continue to be friendly and be willing to do good that person, but sooner or later, that relationship will begin to corrupt you.  You will be influenced, and that influence can only lead you away from the Lord.

Keep telling your friend about the Lord.  2 Timothy 2:24-26 says, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,  In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”

Keep doing good things as an example to your friend.  Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Keep praying for your friend’s salvation.  James 5:16 – “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  There is great power in the prayers of a righteous person, so continue praying for this person.