I've had well-intentioned acquaintances ask me why I have friends who do not attend church, or friends who have made comments they feel are anti-Christian. They tell me I should only keep friends who are Christians and devout Christians, at that. Really? Seriously, have these people not read The Bible? In Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells the apostles, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." In the second chapter of Mark, we're told that (verse 15) Jesus was dining at the home of Levi and there were many tax collectors and sinners eating with Him. The scribes and Pharisees saw this and grumbled to the apostles asking, "How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?" Jesus' reply? "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."
If we never associate with those who are not saved, then how do we intend to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and win souls to the Lord? Sitting in the pews on Sunday and Wednesday is all about our growth as Christians so that we can bring others to know that Good News we've received and to experience the life-changing power that comes from surrendering yourself wholly, and completely, to the King above all kings, the Lord above all Lords, the Almighty God Who was, and is and is to come!
I've been told on several occasions that people who are not Christian but have spent even just a few hours with me when I first met them that they appreciate the fact that I don't beat them over the head with The Bible, yet at the same time they were very much aware that I'm a Christian and I speak of the many blessings and miracles I've received from God. I'm not shy about my faith in any way, form or fashion; yet, I learned long ago that "beating someone over the head" is not going to convince them of anything. It's not about the words I speak, it's about the life I lead, the walk I walk and the light that shines from within. Granted, many people who would question me about having non-church going Christians amongst my circle of friends tend to be those whose lives don't withstand the long-term scrutiny of someone who doesn't believe and who are looking to spot the most minor character flaw in that person to show up their talk by pointing out where they've missed it in their walk. No, I'm not judging those people, I'm pointing out that non-believers are specifically looking to see if the walk you walk matches up to the talk you talk, and they will most assuredly pounce on anything that doesn't measure up because they feel beat up on by those who refuse to befriend them as far as being in their circle. That's just human nature.
Yes, my circle of friends is filled with devout, church going Christians. But, it also includes those who are not and who identify themselves as non-Christian. I'm not going to exclude someone from my life because they don't believe or behave the exact same as I do. Because if I required every single person in my life to believe exactly the way I do, I'd have very, very few friends. Most of us would have an extremely tiny circle if we required everyone to believe exactly the way we do. You would have to associate only with those who attend your chosen local church and even then, you'd find some within that group who don't believe everything you do or believe something you don't!
Instead of being like the scribes and Pharisees and looking around to see who others are associating with, we should all look at our own circle of friends and wonder, "if Jesus were here, would He associate with them? Would He invite ME to His dining table?" Because truly, if Jesus were to have invited you to His dining table, then you would be one of those tax collectors and/or sinners, since that's whom He chose to associate with.