How can I love my neighbor as myself if I am not supposed to associate with the wicked?

The Bible teaches that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 12:31). Yet,  the Bible counsels us to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-18). This means that while we live on earth, we are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16), but we are not to partake of the practices of the world, particularly the sinful ones.

To love our neighbor as ourselves means that we treat those around us with respect and humility, so much so as to even deny ourselves of certain things to meet the needs of others (Philippians 2:3). Still, Proverbs 13:20 gives us a solemn warning to be careful of who we choose to associate with: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

The principle of loving people should not conflict with that of avoiding evil actions. Caring for people is not the same as taking part in sinning with people that you care for. Paul taught, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people” (1 Corinthians 5:9). Balancing these principles is what we ought to do.  For example, Jesus associated with sinners to reach out to them, but He did not join them in sin (Luke 5:32).

It may be difficult to draw the line between these two aspects but the Holy Spirit can give us wisdom as to which actions show love and which actions join in sin (James 1:5). It is a matter that should be prayerfully undertaken considering the solemn warning we are given in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

If the company of your non-Christian friends leads you into sin, then by all means you must avoid it. Matthew 5:29 puts in perspective to what extent we should try to avoid sin: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

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In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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