“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” – Romans 9:1-3
A question came up not too long ago about whether we, as christians, should still hang out with our non-believing friends. This has always has been a topic that comes up with new believers or even people that have been saved for a long time. In this post, I’m not going to necessarily give an exact answer on whether we should or should not, but I want to challenge where our hearts are in these relationships.
I know we have been told to be salt and light to the world but then we have also been told to not hang out with non-believers because they can “pull us down.” I have to admit that these two ways of thinking have confused me at times and I’m sure have confused others.
Fellowship is a word that we hear all the time and see throughout scripture. I want to break down what fellowship is. The new testament word for fellowship is the Greek word Koinonia. It means to have fellowship, communion, and sharing in common. John Stott, in his book, The Living Church, comments on this by saying that “koinonia bears witness to three things we hold in common. First, it expresses what we share in together (our common inheritance); second, what we share out together (our common service), and third, what we share with each other (our mutual responsibility).” We can’t have all these things in common unless we all share in Jesus. This is why John wrote “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).” Biblical fellowship is only for believers.
On the other hand, I want to point out Paul’s heart in Romans 9. We know that Paul was a Jew. Not just any Jew, he was a pharisee that persecuted christians before his conversion. After he became a christian, he no longer associated himself with his Jewish brothers. He had a new identity in Christ. He no longer partook in the traditions of his Fathers but his heart toward his Jewish brothers is amazing. We see him using strong language, saying that he has “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart for his brothers. He says “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers.” He is modeling what Christ did for us. Christ was accursed to bring us into a relationship with the Father. He took our hell and gave us his righteousness. Although Paul, as well as ourselves, are unable to do what Christ has done for us, do we have a heart toward our non-believing friends like this?
If we are just hanging out with non-believers but aren’t preaching the gospel to them and praying for their salvation, then what are we doing? I have been challenged by this passage in Romans and I hope that it challenges you as well. That we would catch the same heart that Paul has toward his non-believing brothers because ultimately this is the heart that Jesus has toward us.