“The only way I know to teach people about Jesus is to be friends with them while not doing the things they do. Isn’t this what Jesus did by eating with sinners? I’ve had a preacher and my mother tell me I can only be a friend with people in the church. Won’t this kill the church?”
“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person…” – I Corinthians 5:9 – 11 (New American Standard Bible)
The apostle Paul was specific about our associations. If a brother is living in sin, we are to avoid him. But, we cannot disassociate from the worldly, because we would have to leave the world. So, having friends who are not Christians is not evil. In fact, Paul says it is part of being a believer in a world of sinners.
On the other hand, we have to be wise about our relationships. “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (I Corinthians 15:33). In the same letter in which Paul tells us we cannot leave the world, he also warns us that evil company or companions can corrupt us. The point is we are to live in the world – we cannot escape that. But “be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise, but live wisely” (Ephesians 5:15), since our friends in the world can corrupt our values.
Take the warnings of your preacher and your mother carefully and avoid friends that weaken your faith or tempt you to sin. If you are to reach the lost with the message of Christ, you, like Jesus, will spend time with sinners. He said, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31, 32).