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The question asked is whether we should "walk" with unbelievers. Or should we have close friends that are unbelievers. The short answer is yes, but with a condition. That condition has to do with our cultural understanding of walking with someone. To walk with someone in the biblical era was a colloquial term that is a bit outdated for our age. It means to really fellowship and be in agreement with them. That is not what Christians do. If we have friends who are unbelievers, agreement with them on the nature of Christ would make them believers. If they are not believers then we obviously are not walking with them in their belief or understanding of Christ. Many people have a moralistic view of Christianity. They believe that simple actions and more often open hostility to bad behaviors are the call of Christians. I disagree, we are to make disciples. The best way to do that is to proclaim the truth of Christ to our non-believing and our believing friends. You can not tell others about Christ if you are not around them. You need to spend time with Jesus before you spend time with others though. Otherwise human weakness will fail us. As our weaknesses fail us, and we have a strained relationship with Jesus, we become moralists who rail on subjective activities rather than sharing the fulfilling life Christ gives us. Moralists are usually folks who are insecure about their standing with Christ, so they begin to pick the behaviors they are best at to judge others by. Telling others to stop doing certain things is not a mission God has called any of us too. God wants us to share Christ with others. So yes, we should not try to alienate our friends by moralizing their actions. But we should convince them of Christ's love for them by demonstrating the forgiveness and full acceptance that Jesus' death on the cross offers them. There is a saying that Christians like to quote: "Preach Christ and if necessary use words". I believe this statement, but I also know that scripture teaches: Rom. 10:14 How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them. You have no right to preach if you don't have the actions to back it up. But Christ is alive and speaking to us today, through prayer and God's word. Our puny "good deeds" are not enough. I've found the best way to witness to others is to share what Christ is doing in my life today. That way people see relevance to their own needs.
I had been taught as a young person, in church, that as a Christian, "a little Christ", I may be the only Bible or image of Christ an unbeliever may get to see. That is a shocking responsibility. I felt unworthy, gave up and surrendered to sin for a time. I classify unbelief as living as if there is no God, that made me just like the unbeliever. When I returned to the Lord, desperate for forgiveness and an authentic relationship with Him, I had a new compassion for the unbeliever. It's a tough world with no God to love and forgive you and no Jesus to save and walk with you and no Holy Spirit to help and inspire you. Its a hopeless world, without God. Now I try to live my life as if I believe that God loves me, Jesus is present in my life, and the Holy Spirit is guiding me-with believers and unbelievers. Although I never want back into the hopelessness of unbelief, that doesn't make me immune to sin or temptation. If I remember to walk closer to Jesus and Our Father than anyone else, anyone, believer or unbeliever, is welcome to walk with us. Ephesians 2:12-13 talks about being an outsider and then being brought in by the blood of Jesus. I am so grateful for that! That makes for good conversation on the road:-)
Jesus was the Friend of sinners, but His closest friends were His followers. If you want to be a happy, dedicated person who is "planted by the rivers of water" (grounded in Christ), productive-- "bringing forth fruit in season," then be patient because it's all in God's timing. You will be successful ("prospered") according to Psalm 1:3 in that you may win that person to Christ. Adrian Rogers attended professional baseball games with an unbeliever regularly and then after years, I believe it was, saw that person become a Christian! And what joy he had!
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