Return to Index Page
By Richard Gunther
is no doubt in my mind that we are influenced by the company we keep.
I have seen the evidence for this in my own life, and in the lives of my
friends and family. I have seen good children turn rebellious and anti-social
through the peer pressure of Public school. I have seen godly women led astray
into adultery through the company of unsaved men. I have seen well-meaning
Christian teenagers abandon their faith for the affections of an unsaved
partner. I have seen good little children ruined by the bad example of other
The only person who was not influenced by the company he kept was Jesus,
but even that took him some effort and focus, because the pressure was on him
too to change his lifestyle. His disciples (unconsciously) tried to alter his
path – Peter even tried to talk him out of going to Jerusalem to die – and
all through his life from childhood upwards he had friends and family either
mocking him or tempting him to go outside the Father’s will. His childhood
friends, full of mischief and small sins must have put some pressure on him to
disobey the authority figures in his life, and as he passed through adolescence
his hormones would have had their normal effect on a growing young man. He would
have been attracted to the beautiful young women of his town, and perhaps
tempted to pursue vocations which were not part of the divine plan for his life.
And yet Jesus never sinned, in thought, word, or deed – Heb.4:15 and Heb.5:8.
But Jesus was unique. He was similar to us in many ways, but also totally
unique in other ways. But, some will say, Christians have received the Spirit of
God into their lives, and are therefore in touch with the power of God – which
ought to help them walk the same path as Jesus – but unlike Jesus, Christians
are also influenced by their inherited sinful nature. Jesus never had a sinful
nature. He was not a descendant of Adam by the male line. This separated him
from sinful Adam. Jesus’ body came from Eve’s egg, and his Spirit came from
heaven. (A great mystery!) This meant that Jesus was fully a man, but also fully
The question is often raised: “Is it right for a Christian to have a
relationship with a non-Christian?” The answer is both short and long, and in
both cases some other questions must be asked. It is not really as simple as
‘yes’ or ‘no’.
The first thing we need to know is what the word ‘relationship’
means? In some cases it may mean ‘’friendship’, in which case the answer
to the question is ‘yes’, most certainly. Jesus encouraged his followers to
get out into the world and mix with the unsaved. He often spoke about Christians
being lights in a dark place (See Matthew 5 for example). He did not instruct
his followers to separate themselves from the people of the world, and retreat
into monasteries and nunneries, because, although these were probably noble
ideas, the spread of the gospel would be greatly restricted. Paul’s life is a
great example to us. He went everywhere there were people, arguing in
synagogues, and homes, and marketplaces, and it was Paul who said that
Christians ought to follow his example – 1Cor.4:16, 11:1 and Phil.3:17. When
he said “Be followers of me” he was encouraging Christians to put Jesus
first in every area of their lives, which would include relationships.
Before we go any further with this topic I think a couple of things ought
to be said.
First of all Christians are free to choose who they associate with, and
who they marry, and who they befriend. They are at liberty to do whatever they
want to do, just like everyone else is free to choose most things. However,
there are ‘strings attached’. Just as Adam and Eve were free to eat or not
eat the fruit, they were also clearly informed as to the repercussions of their
actions. God made them responsible for their actions. If they obeyed, they would
be blessed, if they disobeyed they would begin to die and eventually disappear
from the world as a pile of dead flesh. It is the same for Christians. God holds
us responsible for our actions and choices. If we obey Him we are blessed, but
if not then we become responsible. So ‘yes’ a Christian can have a
‘relationship’ with a non-Christian, but God has warned us about the
probable outcomes, and we become responsible for that.
Second, there are some very pragmatic, dogmatic, merciless Christians
about who act rather like the classical version of Moses, in that they seem to
carry a set of the Ten Commandments about and whenever they meet what they
decide is sin, they drop the rocks on the head of the offender! While I admire
their commitment and zeal, I do not admire their attitude.
My approach is to focus on the Fatherhood of God. He is, after all, our
Heavenly Father, and this is His own designation, so we can trust that He means
us to understand something deep and powerful by it. He is also called a
Shepherd, and there again we have some related images which are very meaningful.
Some very important verses on the Fatherhood role of God are found in
Psalm 27:10, 68:5, 103:13, Proverbs 3:12, 4:3
and 13:1, and Matthew 5:45.
For some important references to the Shepherding role of God, see Psalm
8:1, 23;1, Isaiah 40:1, Ezekiel 34:12, 23, Matthew 9:36 and 1Peter 2:25.
I hope you took the time to look up the verses. They will give you a good
perspective on what follows.
I mentioned Adam and Eve deliberately because they present the first
example of how God works. He is wiser than us. He is able to know things without
needing a ‘trial run’ to find out what works best. He can see the
consequences of every action before they happen. When the first humans sinned,
God saw every consequence from that moment on right down the thousands of years
to today, yet knowing all that He still allowed the first humans to make a
decision which set the entire chain reaction going. This in some way reveals the
love and compassion of God, because if He had not allowed the freewill choices
of His first humans to run their course, He would have become a Divine Dictator.
We could not be sure that our own decisions today would run their course without
God standing in the way. No generation could escape the curse of Divine
But God is a Father and a Shepherd. He treats us as lambs, and dear
children. He knows our weaknesses. He knows how our emotions run, and how
difficult it is for us sometimes to resist temptation. Usually, the best He can
do is give us advice, and warn us of the consequences if we disobey Him. As a
Holy God He is always provoked to anger, and as a Judge He is unable to let any
sin go unpunished, but these are side issues, and usually these actions come
after He has waited patiently for us to change our minds. Just as a patient and
longsuffering parent will give a young son or daughter a time of grace before a
reprimand, so our Heavenly Father warns and waits before finally taking action.
Just as a sidelight on this, think of Noah, who warned his generation for
120 years before judgement came, or the Canaanites, who escaped judgement for
400 years before Israel arrived, or Jerusalem, which remained safe
from invasion until 70 AD when the Romans sacked the city. God allowed
king Manasseh (2Kings 21:9) who reigned in wickedness for 55 years before God
finally moved against him. Here are many other examples of rulers, nations and
individuals who made wrong choices, but remained free of judgement for long
periods because God was compassionate with them.
Having said all this, let us now examine the question more closely.
One of the key verses is in Corinthians. Please read the context to get
the correct understanding – what goes before and after the verse.
“Be ye not unequally
together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with
unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians
When you read the whole passage you can see that God is offering an
incentive for separation. He says that those who separate themselves from
ungodly relationships will be given a wonderful standing –“I will be a
Father to you and you shall be my sons and daughters’. This is a fantastic
prize, and an incredible reward for those who dare to take Him at His Word. But
it is an offer, and God cannot force Christians to take it. We are free to form
as many unholy alliances as we like, but our standing as sons and daughters will
be lost. We cannot have it both ways.
So the question is : What do you value most?
Some people may object and say “But
these verses are about spiritual things?” To this I would ask another
question: “Can you separate your spiritual beliefs from your thinking?” You
will find that whatever things you believe are a part of your whole lifestyle.
People are integrated things, with all parts (mind, body, spirit, whatever you
like to call them) welded together, so what affects one part will affect all the
For example, when you are sick, it affects your spirit and your mind.
When you are materially well off, by way of a fat cheques suddenly arriving,
your spirit lifts and your health improves. Happiness, for most people is a
sudden financial windfall, and if they are Christians they will be revived
spiritually – ‘Praise God for this money!”
So if you have a relationship with someone, they will affect you in many
ways. This is why God warns us to beware of relationships which cut across the
Christian values we should be guarding. God doesn’t want to lose His children.
He loves us. He wants us to be filled with the Spirit, happy, healthy,
prosperous and separate from the unsaved people’s lifestyles. God knows how
dangerous the ungodly are, even when they are our best friends. Their lifestyles
are part of them, and they will affect us regardless of how determined we are to
So many Christian’s lives lie in ruins because they thought they could
get away with a wrong relationship.
I have seen marriages where the wife is a Christian and the husband is
not. She is unhappy because her husband will not support her in her efforts to
raise the children in Christian ways. All he wants to do is work at his job,
watch sport on TV, drink beer and discuss finances. The children copy their
father. She has to live with the ungodly howl of commercial radio whenever he is
home, and terrible TV programs late into the night. He on the other hand finds
her irritating because she is not interested in the things he is interested in.
But of course this is exactly what we should find. Why should an unregenerate
man be interested in godly living? Cats meow and dogs bark – unsaved people
don’t know any better, they can do only what they are built to do.
I have also seen Christian teenagers chasing unsaved boys. “I’ll get
him to come to church” they say, and “When we get married he/she will be
saved”. They think that love is more important than salvation. They make
excuses for the boy/girl they are attracted to. The defend him or her: “He
doesn’t swear very often”, or “I got him to come to church last week. I
think he might be saved soon”, or “He’s very interested in Christian
things” – yes but the boy/girl is not saved is he? He’s not a committed
Christian is he? Its all very well telling people that he/she likes Christian
music, went to a Christian camp, has read parts of the Bible and so on, but none
of these things are enough. The unsaved are quite capable of pretending almost
anything for the affections of another admiring person.
Examples of godly separation in the Bible.
One obvious example is Daniel and his three friends. They were offered
the ‘king’s meat’ – Daniel 1:8-13, but refused. The result was a marked
improvement in their appearance.
Another example is Moses, who one day suddenly realized that he wasn’t
an Egyptian. “By faith Moses,
when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s
daughter” Hebrews 11:24
But always, in the midst of the nation of Israel, there were people who
refused to be like their sinful neighbours. God said: “Yet I have left me
seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal,
and every mouth which hath not kissed him”. 1 Kings 19:18
And there are many individuals, men and women, girls and boys, who have
tried to live separate lives for God.
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners”.1 Corinthians 15:33 This verse means, in modern English: “Don’t be fooled! Bad company ruins good behaviour!” Or, in the words of a Manmade proverb: “Birds of a feather flock together”. You become like the company you keep. If you keep the company of good, solid, committed Christians, their influence will lift you up. If you keep the company of unsaved people, they will gradually destroy your faith. It may not happen in such a way as to be noticeable, but bit by bit, slowly, a word here, a joke there, gradually your faith will be dismantled, and then suddenly, one terrible day, you will realize that there is so little difference between yourself and the unbelievers around you that nobody can tell the difference.
Back to Index Page