Shake Off the Dust Under Your Feet
Most recently, while I was checking my Facebook account, I noticed that Facebook had been sending friend requests on my behalf, and people were accepting them. I wouldn’t necessarily get upset over this because it has happened before, but this time I became annoyed because the request went out to people that I would least likely send out requests to.
In my moment of annoyance, I made a comment on my wall about Facebook to see if others had a similar problem. This sparked over fifty comments to my post that had very little to do with my problem. Later I found out that someone may have hacked my account and was playing a joke on me, a very mean joke.
However, what began with my slight annoyance at Facebook ended in arguments about befriending and not befriending unbelievers. The exchange between a few individuals set off a chain of comments that troubled me and inspired me to write this hub.
I was a bit shocked at the mentality of a few, and at how they perceived and misunderstood the teachings of our Lord Jesus. Some refused to accept unbelievers and only befriended Christians while others were very open about accepting anyone without any discernment.
I’ll begin by asking, as Christians are we to befriend unbelievers, people of other religions, people that practice paganism and everything else in between?
Some will tell you, you do not have to befriend anyone if you don’t want to. True, you do have that option. However, what does the Bible say about befriending anyone that does not share our beliefs? We will get to that in a moment.
I feel much of it depends on whom you are representing. Are you representing yourself or are you representing Christ? If you are representing yourself, your answer may be influenced by worldly views, but if you are representing Christ, as Christ’s ambassador, you should stand strong for Christ and not compromise His Word. You must decide whom you want to represent.
Now, when forming relationships with others that do not share in our beliefs, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NIV),
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
"I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
"come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
Why did Paul say this? Paul was trying to warn the believers against the dangers of forming any sort of close relationship with idolaters that would compromise their Christian standards. Paul quoted from the Old Testament to remind them of God’s promise.
For centuries, the Israelites closely associated with pagans, intermarried, and worshipped other gods just as the pagans. In time, they turned completely away from God. God implored them repeatedly to come out from the world and separate themselves from those who opposed and denied Him, to walk in obedience, and in return, He promised to receive them as His children and bless them. Yet, people continued in their rebellion.
We are still seeing this rebellion against God today. In our society, we are being taught to be tolerant of others even if it means going against God’s Word. Anything that hints at being intolerant sends many people off into a rant with name-calling and insults. When Christians, those that live by the Word, try to refute and rebuke sin, they are ostracized and labeled with insulting names, sadly even by those who claim to be Christians.
Unfortunately, many Christians have fallen into the same frame of mind of today’s society, just as the ancient Jews did in their time. Many have come to preach that Jesus “hanged out” with sinners and tax collectors to support their argument and as an excuse to do things they shouldn’t do. Personally, when I refer to Jesus and sinners, I do not like to use the term “hanged out;” I find it to be very disrespectful and an inappropriate word to use.
To hear that Jesus “hanged out,” it says to me that Jesus sinned like the rest by getting drunk, using profanity, fighting, lying, cheating, and misbehaving as one of the boys in the crowd. That is very far from what Jesus did. Jesus did not sin. There was no sin in His thoughts, His heart, His words or His actions. What He did do is, accept the impure, the unclean, and the outcasts with love. He forgave their sins, and healed them.
In fact, first century Jews did not “hang out” with people that were considered unclean as it was socially unacceptable to sit and dine with people that were impure or they risked becoming impure themselves. Jesus was different. He did not shun sinners or kept only to the righteous and the religious as the Pharisees, Seduces, and teachers of the Law. He lived and walked among sinners to preach about repentance and how the Kingdom of God was at hand (Mat 4:17).
Therefore, yes, He dined and sat with sinners and tax collectors, but He did so because He had a purpose. He did not become their hangout pal and used His authority as an excuse to party, do the wrong things, and be accepted in a crowd. When He got together with sinners, He did so because He had to gather His twelve disciples. He had to teach the Word, teach about repentance and forgiveness of sins, and tell them about the Kingdom of God. He performed many miracles, and He did all this to save the lost.
A very good example of why Jesus’ was commonly found among sinners is found in Luke 5:27-31, right after Jesus healed a paralyzed man.
“After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”” NIV
Who where these sinners Jesus dined with and talked to? Where the sinners the law breakers, tax collectors, drunkards, killers, rapists, thieves, adulterers, prostitutes, liars, idolaters, and all the outcasts? No, the sinners were not just these. The sinners He associated with were everyone because they were all sinners.
However, many denied and rejected Him then as they do now. When Jesus sent His disciples out to other towns to spread the Good News, many rejected and persecuted the apostles. Therefore, what did Jesus tell His twelve disciples to do when people refused to receive them or listen?
“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Mark 6:11) KJV
In answer to the question, what does the Bible say about befriending anyone that does not share your beliefs?
The Bible is clear when it says we are not to be unequally yoked with (unrepentant) sinners. However, it does not mean we cannot associate with others. That would be unrealistic. As Christians, we are to follow Jesus’ example. We must give others the opportunity to come to know Him so they may come to repentance. If we do not allow them the opportunity, how else are we to share Christ with them? This does not mean you have to accept their ways, get chummy with them, act and behave sinfully. We are not to judge others, but neither are we to accept and agree with their sins in fear of losing them to Christ, or in fear of what they may think of us. Jesus was very bold in rebuking sin. Sin is sin and there is no sugarcoating it.
As an overseer of God’s household, the Bible says “… he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:7-9) NIV
We are also to rebuke those that do not live in accordance with God’s Word and reject truth (Titus 1:10-16). However, we must be careful how we approach others that do not share in our faith. I remember a time before I turned myself around and came to Christ, my sister, may God bless her, who had been praying for my salvation for years, would overwhelm me with Scriptures. My birthday cards, Christmas cards, letters, and phone conversations were full of scriptures and talk about Jesus until one day I snapped at her, and hurt her feelings.
Back then, I believed in God (in my own way) but the constant talk of Jesus annoyed me, and I saw it as hypocritical coming from others when their own lives were a mess. Since then, I’ve asked her for forgiveness. I came to understand the love she has for our Lord Jesus Christ, but I also explained to her how she made me feel at that time with her constant pushing. In time, I also came to experience the same hurt she felt back then, when I dealt with others that did not share in my beliefs.
We should not overwhelm others to the point of annoyance, even if we are doing it for the Kingdom of God or we will turn people off to God. Instead, find unique ways to approach unbelievers and teach them about God. In addition, we must not act as if we are better than they are because we are not. We are also sinners. The difference between believers and unbelievers is repentance. However, we’ve come to realize we are sinners, and in our repentance, we are forgiven. The blessings that follow our repentance, is found in the Bible.
Jesus reached out and taught sinners in a unique way. He taught using parables. He also spoke in a language people of that time needed to hear and understand. He spoke the language of His heart— love. When people heard Jesus preach, they were mesmerized because it was so unlike any of the teachings they received from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Imagine the rigid teachings of the Law, the constant accusations from the “righteous,” and their transparent hypocrisy. Out of their mouths came one thing but out of their hearts came hate and condemnation, but worse of all, they did not love God.
We are to be an example of Christ. If after you shared our Lord with others they remain unrepentant and continue in their sin, then shake off the dust under your feet and walk away. You can rebuke those who refuse sound doctrine, but don’t criticize or continually try to push people to see the error of their ways, or they may just point out yours. Leave chastisement and conviction to God. Instead, continue to pray for those who rejected Jesus to come to repentance, and to accept Him as Lord of their lives. In time, some will turn around. If they don’t, remember what Jesus said would happen in Mark 6:11.
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