I love my church friends, but I miss the diversity of my old life. Is there anything wrong with having non-Christian friends?
Jesus had many non-Christian friends! But they didn’t stay that way long. People couldn’t be around Jesus without catching fire from his flame, so to speak. He was contagious as a kind, compassionate friend to people; a brilliant, patient teacher; a healer of hurts; a courageous leader and a fierce truth-teller in the face of religious and political giants. No, there isn’t a darn thing wrong with you having non-Christian friends as long as you are strong in your Christian walk, healed of your past and stable in your new identity. Like Jesus, you will be the flame representing Christ—are you able to do it? Are you sure?
That last sentence is vital as you consider what I’m saying. While I completely understand how suffocating it is when we insulate ourselves in Church-only circles, there is danger out in the open fields of the world and we must be aware of it. There is certain danger in revisiting our past for any reason other than healing and redemption. Paul said it because he lived it: “I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead” (Philippians 3:13, TPT.) Why? Because when Paul became a Christian...when he was born-again...he got a new life and a destiny he loved. Paul felt the pull of his past and refused to go back there.
There’s a reason the Holy Spirit comes and renews our insides—because who we were before; the sins we enjoyed and the darkness within us, had to be removed in order for us to adopt membership in a new Kingdom. The kingdom of darkness and sin is usually attached to people, you see. In the recovery world we call those people, “two-legged dope.” Through a process that sometimes takes years, we come clean when we come to Christ. Yet our old self remembers the counterfeit pleasures of two-legged dope that is often addictive and leads to destruction. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said this, “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11, NASB.) If you return to those friends of your past; hang out with those folks you left behind when you found Jesus, there may be an enticing, familiar spirit calling you back to that world. I’m not necessarily talking about drugs and alcohol, either. Some people are toxic to us because they have a different value system that infects our Christian beliefs. Cross-pollinating with non-Christians must be done carefully and with mature accountability in tow.
All recovery groups worth their salt have a twelve-step process of ungluing a person from their past. Steps eight and nine are all about the people in our history. But the trajectory of these carefully crafted encounters with old friends leads to one goal: forgiveness and closure. Digging into the past otherwise is risking a Pandora’s Box of puke, said Solomon.
I recommend taking a personal inventory of your social needs. What are you missing that isn’t happening in your current social set? Take those desires up with Jesus then pray them or journal your thoughts. For example, my life as a pastor is sometimes painfully lonely. After all, who wants to hang out with a pastor? Dating? (Laughable) Yet God knows I need friends, so I ask Jesus for them regularly. I pray for God to send me people; healthy friendships and fulfilling, social events where interesting folks like to meet. This has led me to all kinds of enriching civic gatherings (non-Christian!) like hiking groups or writer’s groups or adult education classes—even Weight Watchers, for goodness sakes. My busy social calendar is filled because I prayed and God answered.
All that to say; I assure you that my core group of confidants and closest buddies will always be Christians. No one understands believers like people in the family.