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Friendships in the World or with the World

Friendships in the World or with the World
By Wesley Wildmon
AFA Director of Outreach

We are often reminded Jesus ate with sinners. Consequently, some insist there are no limits to evangelism. Many gifted evangelists go to the darkest places to evangelize. Thank God for them. Should we all stand outside bars, strip clubs, and anywhere sin increases? Where does a Christian draw the line with their non-Christian friends? As we continue to read let’s keep in mind Jesus was always 100% pure in His thoughts and intentions, which means He was always thinking of the unbeliever’s eternal heart. Unfortunately, even as born again believers, each of us have personal struggles with impure thoughts, selfish motives, and various other sins.

Fortunately, we also have the hope of eternal life through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is this same hope that should motivate us to share the redemptive work of Christ to all unbelievers. Only God has intimate knowledge of the state of a person’s heart. Therefore, we can only assume one is a believer or non-believer based on his ‘fruit’, or whether he denies Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 7:16, James 2:14-26, Galatians 5:22-23).

When faced with an unbeliever, our ultimate purpose in engaging them is to help them be united with Christ. In all cases, whether a believer or unbeliever, we must build a relationship in order to earn their attention and trust (1 Cor. 9:19-23). A pastor once said, “People have to know how much you care before they care how much you know.” The tension concerns how close or how much we as Christians engage those who are not believers or are living in habitual sin. This has been debated for two millennia, especially within the Christian community. For brevity’s sake, there are two lessons we can learn from Scripture that are very important when tackling the question “How close do we get to unbelievers?”

First, we should guard our own heart. Only getting as close to unbelievers as possible without giving Satan a foothold that would tempt us (Galatians 6:1). The very last thing Jesus wants is for us to sacrifice our fellowship with Him while trying to faithfully witness to a person in a situation that can pull us away from Him. If we yield to temptation we ultimately do more harm than good. I have seen this time and time again with those who try to be nicer than Jesus. Nonetheless, instead of leading by example, we have now become hypocrites by justifying to them the very thing that is separating them from reconciling with Jesus. Leading by example is the best advice while also taking care not to surrender ourselves to sin.

This leads us to the second example we can learn from Scripture: it not only pushes the person to whom you are faithfully witnessing away from Christ, but also causes our spiritual brothers and sisters who are babes in Christ to doubt their faith (1 Corinthians 8:7-13). It is very important to the mature Christian to avoid being a stumbling block to young brothers and sisters in Christ. If in our efforts to witness we can begin to do what they do, we become a stumbling block. The word used for stumbling block, skandalon, in the original Greek language means apostasy, which means to cause someone to renounce his or her faith. The idea that we could actually cause someone to doubt his or her faith in Jesus should tell us that there are certainly personal limits to evangelism. Let us not be the cause for our brothers and sisters to stumble.

Please do not give up too soon but understand you may reach a point where prayer is the only tool left. Prayer in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can go places we cannot and accomplish things beyond our imagination.

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