Reach Out or Avoid?

By Chuck Bartlett

As students of the word, we sometimes come across passages of scripture that seem to conflict. For example, we read that we are to go into the world to teach the lost (Mark 16:15; Matt. 9:13), yet we are also warned that that evil company corrupts good habits (I Cor. 15:33). What should God’s children do – spend time with the lost or avoid them? Let’s clear up the confusion.

First, we need to understand that there is a big difference between being around the lost to help them learn about the Lord and being partners with the evil doers. The word “company” in I Corinthians 15:33 means “companionship”. This is what Paul spoke about in his second epistle to the brethren at Corinth: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (II Cor. 6:14).

Christians need to be wary of being influenced by those who are not children of God. This occurs when saints (which means “a person recognized to be holy”) engage in things that are ungodly. We are not told to cut ourselves off for the lost. We are admonished not to allow evil company to corrupt good habits.

This does not mean that God wants us to overcorrect and fully separate ourselves from those who walk in darkness. The Corinthians were also told: “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person,” (I Cor. 6:9-11).

The above text helps us see how to interact with the lost. We are not to avoid those who are not Christians, but we must also be careful around sinners to avoid corrupting our own morals. That’s why we are warned to not be a participant in their evil doings. Light has nothing in common with darkness. However, a Christian may have non-sinful things in common with one who is lost, like a common occupation, hobby, etc. Often, those things we might have in common can be used as doors to try and impart the gospel.

We all know that Jesus ate with the sinners. His motive was always to reach them with the truth, though. There is something seriously wrong when Christians only want to fit in with the lost and avoid bringing up the word of God to avoid disrupting the relationship. Sadly, Christians who do this also tend to remain silent when their “company” does evil and make them feel comfortable in their sins (Rom. 1:28-32).

When these warnings are ignored by God’s children, they will soon feel more comfortable hanging around the lost than around their own brothers and sisters in Christ. You would think the opposite would be true since God’s people are part of a spiritual family that have a longing to spend eternity in heaven. But that is not the case when one does not keep their eye on the mark (Heb. 12:1-2; 28).

The title of this article is “Reach out or avoid?” The answer to that question is “yes and no”. Yes, reach out to the lost and do not avoid them. But also no, do not allow your good morals to be corrupted by evil doers and avoid those who actively try to corrupt you.


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