How close of a friend can I be to someone who uses drugs?

Question:

Hello Jeffrey,

I hope you are doing well today.

I have a question that I've always wondered about but never really been able to settle in my mind. Should a Christian hang out with an unbeliever? Obviously Christians are not to completely separate from unbelievers, but where is the line drawn? I have an old friend who is not a believer, and I know from previous experience that I can't just go hang out with him just anytime or anywhere because he does things that I don't want to be around. I've now gotten to the point where we just meet up to take our dogs on a walk, and sometimes if it's in the evening, his mom invites me over for dinner.

For a time I stopped hanging out with him because of what it says in II Corinthians about not being "unequally yoked with an unbeliever". Is this a proper application of this passage?

After a while though I would feel guilty because I know that I might be one of the only positive influences he has among his friends. He has struggled with a heroine addiction for quite sometime, and though he is clean right now, I know it's still hard for him because he has gotten clean before and fell back into it. He is actually very embarrassed about it around me or anyone else who doesn't do it, so I usually don't even know he was falling back into it unless it gets really bad, or he quits it again and comes to me confessing what he was doing. He has even overdosed from it, I think, more than once, and I just worry about him sometimes.

I have invited him to Bible studies before with the rest of the church, but he has not accepted the invitation. Once he came to a sermon with me in the past, but it was a bad experience as it was all about how the congregation needed to be giving more money, so the church could buy a new bus.


Answer:

The problem is one of influence. While you would like to influence him to be good, he can more easily influence you to do what is wrong. "Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals"" (I Corinthians 15:33). There are many passages warning about this pull:

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful" (Psalms 1:1).

"My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent" (Proverbs 1:10).

"Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall" (Proverbs 4:14-16).

"Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret" (Ephesians 5:11-12).

In other words, when you are dealing with sinners, there has to be some distance between you. The ever present danger is that in your sympathy for him, you can get dragged down to his level. "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).

I understand the desire to want to help him, but you can't encourage someone while they remain in sin. When dealing with a drug addict, you have to be clear to him that while you won't give up on him, you can't help him while he is using. You are correct, it is hard to tell when drug addicts are back to using again, but you have to keep the line firm. When you find out he is using, tell him to go to rehab and when he gets back, and staying off drugs, let you know.

Keep inviting him to learn of God with you. Leave the lines of communication open, but don't get involved in the things he does or the places he goes. He has to choose to want to walk toward righteousness, and that is extremely difficult because the pull of heroin is extremely strong.