Should Christians be associating with non-Christians?

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:12-15)[1]

We Need to Associate with Unbelievers

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many  publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Matthew 9:10-13)
And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. And  it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many  publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples:  for there were many, and they followed him. And  when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners,  they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with  publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They  that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I  came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mark 2:14-17)
 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And  Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great  company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:27-32)
And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And  Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my  goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by  false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:2-10)
God does not call Christians to avoid contact with the world.  To the contrary, Christians should be making friends with lost people. Certainly, if Christians avoid associating with non-Christians, the unbelievers will not hear the gospel and its message of salvation.  However, we do need to make sure that we are influencing the unbelievers and that they are not influencing us.

Associating with non-Christians has Limits!

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)
Associating with unbelievers clearly does not extend to dating and marriage. Therefore, Christians need to limit dating and marriage to other Christians.

We May Need to Eliminate Some Associations

Scriptural References

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. (Matthew 18:8-9)
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5)

End Bad Associations, Not Mutilate Ourselves!

Jesus in not saying in Matthew 5:29-30 or in Matthew 18:8-9 that we should mutilate ourselves. However, He is saying that we need to cut off people or groups if they are wrecking our faith.
The question here is: Who is influencing who? If the lost people that we are associating with are pulling us away from our faith, we may need to break off that association, either temporarily or permanently. To make an analogy, this is a common problem with released inmates. After their release, they often fall into the same associations they had before their incarceration. Then, they start doing many of the same things that they did before their imprisonment. Finally, they end up back in jail or prison.

A Person May Need to Mature More to Associate in Some Cases

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6)
After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. (Luke 10:1)
In Matthew 10:5-6, the apostles were not very mature; and they were not ready to minister cross-culturally. Therefore, Jesus told them to stay in their own culture. However, in Luke 10:1, Jesus told the disciples to go to everybody.

If a Christian attempts a ministry that he is not mature enough for, this ministry will bear little or no fruit, or worse. For example, sending a Christian who is recovering from a drinking problem to minister in a bar district is risky.

Time for Action!

It it time to start associating with non-Christians; in other words, we need to put this into action!


[1] All scripture references are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Please see my about page for why I chose this translation.