You probably read the title and thought, “Well, yeah. Of course, we should have non-Christian friends.” I anticipate several comments on social media saying as much without reading the post. We all know in theory that if we want there to be more Christians, we need to have non-Christian friends. In practice, we struggle to find the balance between being a positive influence and being negatively influenced.
Evangelism Requires It
Christians are not supposed to isolate themselves completely, as tempting as it may be. Christians are supposed to be Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:11). It will be tough to represent God if we never form relationships with people who don’t already know him. Going and making disciples of all nations requires more than leaving gospel tracts on people’s doors and never talking to them.
We absolutely need to have Christian friends and communities as well. We get a picture from the New Testament that Paul urged believers to have their Christian community and be a light to everyone else.
“And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12).
Should Christian Kids have Non-Christian Friends?
I think the biggest concerns are less about adults and more about how parents should raise their kids. Every parent wants to protect their child from bad influences and teach them the right way to live. For Christian parents, this can be especially complicated. How do you respond when your child befriends the Mormon neighbor as I did? If your child doesn’t know any non-Christians, do you push them to meet some?
The answer to this part of the question is where things are the most complicated. It’s similar to questions about whether or not to send your kids to public schools and universities or put them in private Christian institutions. One is probably safer in some sense, but it will not shelter them from the world forever.
Shelter or Inoculate?
I would not dare to say that parents should be making sure their kids make non-Christian friends. The parent’s first duty is to protect their child, not to make them positive influences to other kids. That is their judgment call. My parents homeschooled me. Most of my friends growing up were fellow Christian homeschoolers. I know a thing or two about sheltering. Sooner or later, the kids grow up and leave the bubble. How they respond to it often depends not on what they have been exposed to but how they were exposed to it.
Was the child constantly given a rulebook about who they could talk to, what they could watch, or what is true, without explanation? Then as soon as the bubble is popped, they are often not going to take it well. With the internet, that bubble is popping earlier. Instead, go in with an inoculation mindset. Expose them in the right way, explaining along the way. Be the person they can talk to about their non-Christian friend or what they are taught in school, rather than hiding them from it only to learn it later on.
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