Right off the bat is important to note that we are called to be IN the world just not OF the world. Put another way, we should engage culture through one, spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ and two, loving one’s neighbor(s). However, we must but not be consumed, enthralled, negatively influenced, or in love with the culture. I will briefly argue that if you believe you have/have had meaningful, long lasting, friendship with a non-Christian it is not because that person is being “drawn by the Holy Spirit”, it is not because that person is a “good person” (whatever that means in today’s culture) it is because you are, at best, an immature Christian that loves the things of this world or, at worst, maybe an unbeliever altogether (I’ll be clear about this later).
We find a number of interactions between the people of God and the unbeliever throughout scripture. It is expressly manifest in the Old Testament as Israel and non-Israel (Gentiles). Although we are now under a new and better covenant, the Old Covenant provides us with some insight into the culture. You will never find a genuinely good relationship between an Israelite and a Gentile. Now, before you start scouring the pages of the Old Testament to prove that statement false let me save you some time. As I stated above, engaging and loving one’s neighbor are, and have always been God’s law. Jonah was called to preach to Nineveh. Rahab helped the spies in Jericho and is counted among the elect. The Ammorites were judged by God through Israel after 400 years of child sacrifice and a refusal to repent. All these are loving your neighbor. To think otherwise would be calling God a liar. I am not saying that you cannot be cordial with non-Christians, do business with them, or have good working relationships with them. When it comes to true friendship, however, I’m saying it’s impossible. Why? Because there has always been a clear difference between God’s people and those who are not. The fruit of the Spirit, true confession, and right repentance.
The fruit of the spirt is a gracious gift from God. We can find it spelled out for us in Galatians 5:22-23. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. All these are marks of a believer. “You will know (recognize) them by their fruit” says Christ (Matthew 7:16). I think it helpful to travel three verses up in Galatians. You will find the fruit of the flesh to coin a phrase. Yes, Paul lays out the fruit of Satan/the world. Verse 17 is abundantly clear, “For the desires of the flesh are AGAINST the the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are AGAINST the flesh, for these are opposed to each other…”. Verse 19, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality l, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” As a side note, I want to put out that God’s law is always an easier burden than Satan’s. Satan even demands more visible fruit out of his followers. He demands more sacrifices, more change (inconsistency), and more “things like these”. Paul here is making a statement made many other places in scripture, “what fellowship does light have with darkness?”, “can a spring bring forth both bitter and sweet water?”, “but such WERE some of you, but you were washed…”. You simply cannot exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and not be completely and utterly at odds with unbelievers. There is no neutrality in the fruit spoken of here. It’s either bad fruit or good fruit.
Confession. True confession is a very humbling experience. It takes a real act of the Holy Spirit to cause a human to admit his or her sins. I say sins because it’s the proper term. We do not confess shortcomings. We do not confess mistakes. As Christians we confess treason against the King of the universe. Christians confess sin and they do it humbly. We are commanded to confess our sins to one another. Who is one another? It is obvious. The people of God are the “one another”.
Now, is there never a time to admit sin to an unbeliever? Of course not! That’s a vital part of sharing the gospel. There’s no way we could possible share the great gift of salvation without sharing what God has done for us. Namely, taking our sins upon Him and imputing His perfect righteousness upon us. However, in context, this isn’t what James is referencing. He’s speaking of a community of people intertwined and committed to each other. A community that suffers together, that laughs together. Sounds a lot like a church and a church is full of Christians. Sounds a lot like friendship too. Imagine someone knowing the deepest darkest secrets of your heart and still loving you. That would be true friendship. The only way to know someone like that is through the power of the Spirit in confession. The reason Christians go there entire lives without changing is because they never learn how to truly confess. “I struggle with lust” isn’t true confession, it’s a statement of fact for 99.9998% of men. “I’m a pervert and would rather look at porn twice a day than have sex with my wife” is a true confession. “I hate so-and-so because they get more attention from people than I do and I would be happy if they died” is a true confession. Those statements may seem intense but being vague isn’t a Christian principle. The world is vague. Satan is vague. Don’t be vague. Be honest and forthcoming.
By this time you might be thinking, if I know someone that well I might be tempted to avoid relationship with them. Again, is God’s infinite wisdom he has provided a solution. Repentance. True repentance comes after true confession. It is a literal turning from something to something else. It’s not enough to admit you’re a sinner. You must admit you need a savior. Repentance is a gracious gift God gives His children. It affords us the opportunity to actual change and be transformed into the image of Christ. If we are truly confessing, we will truly repent. If we are truly repenting then we are changing. Changing from something to something else.
I said I would address my statement from the first paragraph about someone possibly not being a Christian so here it goes. If these last few paragraphs seem foreign to you, you might be the “maybe an unbeliever”.
By know I hope I have shown the drastic, fundamental, differences between believers and unbelievers at a basic level. By doing so, I hope o made it obvious why deep, intimate friendship with unbelievers is impossible. We the Spirit’s fruit. They have Satan’s fruit. We make true, humble, confessions. They make prideful proclamations of their actions. We repentant of our wickedness. They celebrate theirs. We love King Jesus. They hate King Jesus. If someone “loved” you but every time they came over to your home spit in your wife’s face and abused your children you would never say that you have true and deep friendship with them. Unbelievers spit in the face of God every minute of every day. Share the gospel with them. Love them as yourself. Just don’t be intimate with them.
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