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Question and Answer

Non-Christian friends for children


Should parents and/or sessions allow their children to have non-Christian friends or to "hang out" with non-Christians?


In response to your question, I would bring before you the following Scriptures with brief explanation:

1 Corinthians 10:27, “If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.” Here it seems fairly clear that Paul does not count sharing a meal at an unbeliever’s house as immoral or even irregular. This points to a kind of “friendship” that can be had between Christians and non-Christians in the context of day-to-day life. In fact it is in such forums of work and social relationships with unbelievers that open doors for gospel witness might be shared, as the Apostle also writes in Colossians 4:5, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” He also states in 1 Corinthians 5:9–10, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” In some sense, then, if not tight-knit “friendship,” then at the very least conversation and a certain degree of “friendliness” with those of the world is necessary in this present age, while of course being careful because it is true that “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). Therefore, any relationships in which Christian would compromise their biblical witness and purity are not ones that should be had. The foregoing applies most directly to adult Christians but in principle also provides a framework for covenant children in Christian households.

With this background, then, I would say that parents have liberty and discretion to guide and guard their children in the ways that they deem most appropriate, remembering of course the injunction “do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This means that the setting of rules should not be arbitrary or haphazard, but have basis in Scripture and in prudential considerations. If you believe, for example, a child would be negatively affected by a particular friend or group of friends, “dragged down” in words and deeds, then you have the right to disallow them from “hanging out” with them, and this can provide a chance for you to explain what friendship is and what it does for one’s character. However, because it is not inherently sinful to have associations with unbelievers in various settings, including work, recreation, and entertainment, making an a priori rule to forbid such friendships would seem to go beyond what the Bible requires. As for the session’s role, it is to provide counsel from the Word, but the particular circumstances would need to be known to them, which is why it might be a good idea to ask your pastor or an elder if you have a specific situation in mind.

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