Home > Christianity > Bad Advice from a Pastor: Separation of Christians and non-Christians

Bad Advice from a Pastor: Separation of Christians and non-Christians

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Toward the end of my semester at New York University (NYU), my roommate threw up all over my carpet after getting drunk with her swimming buddies. I made the mistake of relaying this to my pastor at the time. Let’s call him Pastor Joe. I honestly never found the appeal of getting drunk and having a hangover, and not only that, I considered drunkenness (even ingesting alcohol at the time) sin.

During the summer, my summer roommate decided to bring a guy home and sleep with him in the same bed in our room. Wow. They thought I was sleeping but I crept out of the room and went home to my mother’s house on Long Island that night. After telling Pastor Joe about this particular incident, he said to me:

You don’t need live in filth and ungodliness such as your roommate throwing up on your carpet and other roommates bringing guys into your room. You need to get out of that and go to a Christian college where you can grow in your faith, love, and knowledge of the Lord.

I did as Pastor Joe said. And while God used my decision to bring about good, I now recognize that leaving NYU was one of the worst decisions I could make as a Christian.I now believe my pastor’s advice went against Jesus’ teaching to be “salt and light” to the community around me.  I believe Jesus would have wanted me to stay at NYU despite all the “ungodliness.” The approach I may have had at the time may not have been good. I was an aggressive “evangelizer,” trying to win converts at every opportunity and not really trying to build relationships. It is only now in a more mature Christian faith (and after reading the book unChristian, which I highly recommend) that I now realize separation from non-Christians does not mean cutting off ties with them entirely. And this is the problem with most Christians today: we live in our Christian communities with our Christian friends, go to our Christian church, and try to live our Christian lives. While we are called to encourage and exhort each other, separation by same-religion (or even same-denomination) association should not be so ubiquitous. Christians engaging in friendships with non-Christians should be the norm. This is Jesus’ model for us.

What does Christian separation mean?

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The oft-quoted verse to justify separation from the world is from II Corinthians 6:17 in which Paul quotes the Old Testament:

Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord,

In reading the context of the passage (v.  14-16), I have understood it to encourage Christians not to marry non-Christians. (What leads me to believe this is that Paul has referred to the body of a believer as a “temple of God” in other passages.) For example, one could say Solomon was unequally yoked when he married his foreign wives because they caused him to turn from the God of Israel to worshiping idols. I don’t believe he’s saying “don’t become friends with non-Christians” or “don’t associate yourselves with non-Christians.” Jesus engaged in real, relational friendships with people who were not believers. However, by coming into contact with Jesus, their lives were transformed. Even if people didn’t believe in Jesus, their lives were better off by being around him. Can non-Christians say that their lives are better off because they came into contact with a Christian? That should be the goal.

Engaging in real friendships with non-Christians

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What does engaging in a real friendship with non-Christians mean? It means loving them and loving them well. It means not looking at a person and seeing a potential convert for Christ (which I admit, I used to do); it means looking at a person and seeing that person for who he or she is, weaknesses and strengths. Would I love it if all of my non-Christian friends believed in Jesus? Sure! But even if they never become a believer in Jesus Christ’s deity, I am still called to love them for them.

When Jesus chose his 12 disciples, he chose wildly different people: poor fishermen and a rich tax collector, politically left wingers and right wingers, a doubter and an overanalyzer, an impulsive person and a careful, hesitant man. Jesus also chose someone who would never be fully sold that Jesus was the son of God, a messiah to revolutionize people’s lives spiritually rather than politically. Jesus chose Judas as one of his 12 disciples.

This wasn’t a mistake. If you’ve read the Bible, you may recall that Jesus went up on to a mountain to pray about who these men would be. For three years, Judas followed Jesus, saw him perform miracles, and socialize with different kinds of people. In the end, Judas felt that 50 pieces of silver was worth more than Jesus’ promise of entering an eternal kingdom. But Jesus showed love to Judas anyway. Jesus spent time with a man he knew would betray him and still engaged in a real friendship with him. I still believe Judas’s life was better off by being around Jesus. (Or at least other people’s pockets were better off by the thief possibly stealing less.)

This is the kind of sacrificial friendship and sacrificial love Jesus calls us to. It is difficult. It will hurt. But none of this takes place when Christians do not reach out and have friendships with those who do not share the exact same faith.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Time for Christians to show the world that we are indeed Jesus’ disciples.

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  1. November 6, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    Love people not because it’s our goal to convert them. Love them because…well…that’s what Jesus does. Great post!

    • Kassi
      November 7, 2011 at 6:35 PM

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. November 6, 2011 at 8:33 AM

    Like trying to effect change without mixing in the ingredients. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with God.

    Today folks think that being born again encompasses all that God has for man, apart from the “ in the sweet, by and by” life to come, In truth there is a whole world of living that follows as consequence of being born again. This new kind of life into which we are born is explored about as much as the new world before Christopher Columbus did the heavy lifting of expanding our horizons; which is to say this world is not explored at all. As glorious as the born again experience is, it only gains us entrance into a life where the miraculous is to be as commonplace as the air one breathes moment by moment.

  3. November 6, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    I think we have to be separated in our BEHAVIOR, but not in our persons. How can the world ever see that we are different if we’re not present? I don’t think we can walk away from the world in need of our Savior as if we’re above the sinfulness in it. We are ALL sinners, we are all unworthy of God’s grace and salvation. To separate ourselves from sin, we need to stop engaging in it. To stop engaging, we may need to walk away from certain people who are good at convincing us to sin. That’s true. However, to write the entire non-christian world off and look down our noses at them is unacceptable. It’s what pushes people away from Christianity.

    • Kassi
      November 7, 2011 at 6:35 PM

      Indeed.

  4. November 8, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    “No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power. Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available. Only last week did we develop penicillin and television and nuclear power, and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.” JFK

    “This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers. Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward.” JFK

    If you were to ask man 100 years ago: do you think men will ever walk on the moon? You would immediately rise to the top of a short list with the dubious distinction of king/queen of village Idiots. Ask that Question today and the answer returned would be: why,…….. haven’t you heard! The knowledge gleaned within the window of a hundred years made the difference between scoffing at an idea and touching the stars. When God says something to us and we don’t understand it; inability to understand a thing is not reliable ground for dismissing the reality of it, or ignoring the consequences of it.

    “But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?…We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too” JFK. In 1961 when Kennedy made his now famous pledge to land a man on the Moon, the USA had only 15 minutes piloted spaceflight experience and only 5 minutes of that was in space while the Russians had already completed missions in orbit. Kennedy in the face of virtually impossible odds due to limitations in technology and know how pushed NASSAU beyond their limits of planning a mission to fly around the moon and return, to landing a man on the moon and return; coming form behind the Russians to achieve higher than expected mission goals.

    The difference between limitation and liberty is knowledge. If confronted by limitations, the best course it to seek the know-how. By knowledge you shall be liberated form constraints; whatever the form. When confronted by limitations, if our first recourse is to concede, yield, and embrace them; we might well be going to sleep under a Russian moon, and flying a British flag for a national banner. Limitations by their varied and sundry forms are all the brood of ignorance; wherever found they should be banished. “Ignorance is not so damnable as humbug, but when it prescribes pills (as does the wisdom of men) it may happen to do more harm”— George Eliot. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

    It would serve us well to listen to JFK stir our nation to it’s feet at darker times in our history, to avert the real threat of Russian dominance in the outer space.

    LINK BELOW: (the features a transcript of the inspirational speech, and an audio recording plays in the background)
    http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/jfk-space.htm

    I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, it is the power of God to be delivered from all things which we could before not be delivered from. We seldom discern the wisdom of men which makes void the power of God; because by appearance it often seem wiser than even God’s council which is utter foolishness among men.

    We should raise our awareness to the things that God has said and done, and the world is yet unaware of it. The way the Bible describes brainwashing is stated in (Isaiah 25:7—the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.) This covering, this veil that overspreads the whole world is the wisdom of man. The only way to overcome this is to receive the gift of the mind of Christ whereby by realize that all things are possible with us. If all your lives you are told one thing, in this case the wisdom of man; even if the truth is in front of you, you will not see it because of this veil that covers the face of the world.

    Take this 20-second AWARENESS TEST and see what I mean.

    God has written to us of the great things of his law, but we have counted them as foolishness. Mark 9:23—Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. Luke 18:27—The things, which are impossible with men, are possible with God. Matthew 17:20—. …and nothing shall be impossible unto you. After Jesus rebuked the storm, wind and tempest tossed sea, the disciples looked at him in wonder and asking each other; what manner of man is this. Jesus asked them, where is your faith? He expected them to do the same things he did; Jesus wasn’t the only one that walked on water, Peter did for a short while; this is so symbolic of the short period of time the church got it right after Jesus departed.

    There are two parties identified here with whom it is said that all things are possible, with God and with men who believe. This is the righteousness of God, it transfers to man all the things of God that are given to men by believing, even God himself as the gift first given to Abraham, and promised to we his seed in Christ is transferred to man by the faith of God, that man is supposed to have. Between the impossible and the possible is the knowledge that makes it tangible and real, such knowledge is with God; he gives it to those that fear him.

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