If anyone claims to believe the Bible and follow Christ, I don’t believe there is any way around the requirement to pursue holiness. The Bible is very “black-and-white” that God’s people are to live morally pure lives and be devoted to God (see 2 Tim. 2:19)– that, to me, is holiness.
However, I want to present an issue which faces many Christians in this godless and perverse culture of ours. That is, how do we remain faithful to Christ and live holy while getting along with the unbelievers around us? Is it even possible? After all, we are to be “in this world, but not of it” (John 15:19) and to “not to conform to the pattern of this world” (Rom. 12:2). Some, in an effort to be holy and separate,
1) Jesus associated with sinners to the point that He could be accused of being a glutton and drunkard (Mat. 11:19).
2) Paul acknowledged that it is permissible for believers to:
a) eat at a pagan temple (1 Cor. 8:10).
b) to eat with unbelievers if they are invited (1 Cor. 10:27).
3) With Jesus’ choice of companions and Paul’s permitting of fellowship with unbelievers, it may be assumed that in neither case did they share in the sins of those people.
a. Jesus drank wine at the wedding in Cana, but did not dance on tables and do keg stands. He spoke with prostitutes, but did not go to bed with them.
b. For Paul, the pagan temple, the pagan people, and the pagan food was not the root issue. It was a matter a conscience. It was possible to partake in such fellowship without engaging in idol worship. The barring condition was whether they did it unto God and whether or not it affected their conscience or the conscience of another believer.
3) Jesus promised to bring a “sword” that causes division between people, even family members (Luke 12:49-53). Hence, it is not uncommon to see a rift between Christians and non-Christians, even members of the same family.
4) Unconverted people, according to the Bible, are sinful, deceitfully wicked, unspiritual, God haters, dead in their transgressions, slaves of the devil, and enemies of God. Yes, even “good” people and sincere religious folks have the same condition fundamentally.
5) Believers are very plainly called to holiness– that is, devotion to God and personal purity– whilst having some degree of separation from sinners, not to partner with them, to avoid those who are especially sinful, and have no association with idol worship (see Eph. 5:1-14; 2 Cor. 6:14-18).
Conclusion: So the Bible on one hand gives room for Christians to associate with sinners, and even with eat with them. On the other hand, we are called to personal purity and not to partake in the sin and false worship of others.
Application: How do Paul Soto and Jared Walker remain faithful to God whilst associating with unbelievers in the 21st century? I can relate to you in that many people I love and am close to are unbelieving, living sinful lives, and holding to viewpoints I find abhorrent… Lesbians, liberals, fornicators, New Agers, and others I call my family!
Here are some things I learned and am at least trying to walk out as I relate to them.
A) Love sinful people without sharing in their sin. I can eat with them, laugh with them, and share life with them, but not sin with them. (eg. Not laughing at or telling dirty jokes, partaking in ungodly movies and music, heavy drinking, etc.)
B) Be light and salt. Do not allow the biblical viewpoint you represent be silenced in the market place of ideas. When hot button issues come up, you must defend the sanctity of life, God’s ideal for marriage, etc. and don’t coward out of your convictions. This may cause for some arguments
C) Always be a witness. You owe your unsaved family a Gospel witness. You may be the only one praying for them. You may be the only real Christian they ever meet. You may be their only lifeline to Jesus! If people close to you die in their sins without hearing the Gospel, God may hold you accountable for their blood (see Ezekiel 3:20, cf. Acts 20:26-27). Therefore, make a good effort to clearly convey the Gospel to those you love at least once.
D) Pray. This is obvious; chances are, you’ve been doing it already– keep praying for your lost loved ones to come to Christ and don’t give up (see Luke 18:1-8)!
E) Fellowship with your Christian friends that much more. Although you may not be led into direct sin by associating with unbelievers, there is the subtle and gradual dulling of your spiritual conscience that may take place. Remember, unsaved people don’t value prayer like you do, they don’t spend their money like you do, they don’t read the Bible like you do, they don’t solve problems the same way, they are accustomed to satisfying the flesh in a way that Christ won’t allow you to. Be around like-minded on-fire Christians who will encourage you and spur you on to good deeds (Heb. 10:24-25).
F) Stay in love with Jesus. Read the Bible, pray, fast, read Voice of the Martyrs newsletters and other literature to give you a “big picture” kingdom focus, listen to sermons, and do things to stimulate your relationship with God and the outward expression of it.
G) Remember where your first allegiance lies. If it comes down to it, you must choose Jesus over your unbelieving loved ones. You should sever ties with them only if you they continually discourage your faith or try to persuade you to sin or otherwise violate your conscience. People in the Islamic world who come to Jesus risk being disowned, or even killed, by their own family. You, likewise, may be called to sacrifice some relationships with people of the world. Remember the plain words of Jesus:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27