"You need to get rid of all of your unsaved friends, they are a negative influence in your life" screamed the preacher on T.V.
Then he went on to rattle, about how great it is to be surrounded by people with the same values we have. That living among people with our same values would make us more holy, and of course more prosperous.
Maybe Jesus was wrong. After all he hanged around with a bunch of losers. He was even called the friend of sinners and publicans. That kind of company was anything, but conductive to holiness.
But then again wasn't Christ the holiest man that ever lived? The answer obviously is yes.
Jesus loved people so much that he was willing to go to the lowest of them. He was not afraid that their negative influence would make him less holy or God forbid poverty minded.
How is it then that most Christians develop friendships only among themselves? Even new Christians quickly withdraw from their former friends, and join a church clique.
Christians should have friendships and fellowship with other Christians, but not exclusively. They should make an effort to widen their circle to include non-Christians.
Once I was told that I was wrong in having sinners as friends. That they would drag me back into sin. Am I to believe that the influence of the world is more powerful than the influence of Jesus?
Some advised that I should only witness to them, but not to make friendships. That kind of arm-length evangelism sounds as real as a politician's handshake.
People are not fooled (well, some are) by token friendship. If you are only seeking to add their scalp to your evangelistic belt, they will feel your insincerity.
Starting a friendship requires that you take the initiative. Solomon said “A man that will have friends must show himself friendly".
Some people are naturally friendly while others are more withdrawn, but the Christian must make the effort to reach them all.
Friends can be found just about anywhere. In your school, your job, your community center, and may other places. But please stay off the bars, it could mar your testimony or prove too strong a temptation, besides the fact that drunks are in no shape to listen to the gospel.
Making friends takes time, so be patient, your sincerity will eventually pay off, and you will most likely bring that person to Christ. Then he will be not just a friend, but a brother in Christ.