rebelling against low expectations

When Your Unbelieving Friends Sin


When I was younger, I remember everyone being held to the same rules.

My classmates, for the most part, went to church, whether or not their families were actually believers. Their parents made sure that they didn’t cuss and that they finished their homework. Modest dress codes were rarely broken. Nobody thought it was cool to smoke or drink.

As nice as it would be if this stayed the same throughout our lives, things start to change when you reach middle school; and they only escalate from there. The older we get, the more blatantly we encounter the sin in other people’s lives.

Most teenagers don’t respect their authorities, and a lot of the time, all they care about is instant gratification. Their parents are less concerned about them staying “pure little kids,” and some hardly blink an eye when their children go off to parties and come home early the next morning.

The friends I used to agree with on all moral issues now think it’s fine to drink, have immoral relationships, and sin in general.

We are called to be friends with people who don’t know Christ as Lord. When Jesus was here, he ate with tax collectors and sinners. He knew the messy side of people. He saw the ways that they swindled, lied, drank, and committed adultery.

But sometimes I wonder how he dealt with it. How could the perfect God of the universe feel love instead of anger when the people he cared about made the wrong choices?

If you’ve ever been friends with a person who doesn’t have the same beliefs as you, I’m sure you’ve felt frustration with those differences. I remember, on one particular night when I laid down to go to bed, I prayed: “Dear Lord, help my friends to stop doing bad things! Help them to see how much it hurts them, and how it affects others, too!”

I was angry.

I was angry because sin was ruling my friends’ lives, and I knew it was wrong.

I was angry because I could see so clearly the reasons why what they were doing was not okay, and for some reason, they couldn’t get it, even when I explained.

But through this anger and frustration, God began to speak. Slowly, he helped me to realize that I had been focusing on the wrong things.

The world teaches us that happiness is the ultimate goal in life. Knowing my friends’ pain, I had wanted so badly to make them happy that I had forgotten my real purpose in their lives. The purpose I had been trying to fill was covered in a convincingly Christian-sounding idea: “get them to stop sinning so they’ll have better lives!”

It seemed really good. Godly, even.

Then, I examined it more closely. And I realized I had been hoping to help change morals, not hearts.

I had been working according to the hidden (and very wrong) idea that sinning less was more important than being saved from the sins we have already committed, and will inevitably continue to commit.

When God changes our hearts, we are prompted to hold to his Word and what he says is right. Before that, we are blinded to the truth.

On numerous occasions, I had talked to my friends and explained to them – very logically, in fact – what I knew was best for them. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I would encourage it. But I also would not expect a good response, and I certainly would not put it at the forefront of my agenda as a friend to a nonbeliever.

You see, when people are blinded to God’s truth, they are prevented from understanding some of the simplest things. God shows us this many times throughout His word, but I had forgotten that it still applies to us today.

It’s necessary to do your best to keep your friends from harm and from harming others. But it is essential that we remember our ultimate goal is to be an ambassador for Christ, and allow him to work through us to bring new believers into his family.

If our secular friends’ eyes are opened, they will end up under the same law as us. Until then, it will only cause frustration if we expect them to live under a moral code created by someone whose existence they don’t acknowledge.

This does not mean that they aren’t sinning. It definitely doesn’t mean to participate in their sin.

We simply cannot forget that sin does not end unless Jesus returns, or death takes an unbeliever from this world.

God has a lot of amazing testimonies planned out.  Those of people with troubled pasts are something I’ve seen him use again and again to further his kingdom. Sometimes, a person rejects Christianity, even well-presented, multiple times before coming to faith. Often, people do a lot of really sinful things before they ever repent.

So do not be disheartened! God has a plan, and we can rest knowing that it is good.

Our job is not to figure out how to fix people’s lives, and it’s also not to keep our secular friends from sinning. We are simply to give God control, and let his truth shine out in our lives.

I was once encouraged by a youth leader at my church to pray for conversations about Christ with unbelieving students at my school. It’s something I do to this day, and I would encourage you to do it as well.

But I would also caution you, in the same way that my leader did.

“Pray for strength, too,” he said. “And make sure you’re ready to let God work. Because he hears those prayers, and he will bring you those conversations.”

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About the author

Leah M.

is a seventeen year old girl working on her highly stressful career at a public high school. Although she gets little sleep, she enjoys every second of band, choir, pole vault, and cross country that her school can provide. During the summer, she stays on her toes by sharing the love of Jesus with children of all different colors, lives, and homes in several places across the U.S. and her hometown.


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  • Really great article, Leah! I like it when I see a long article and think “uh-oh”, start reading, and find myself unable to pull away from it because something (tone, perhaps?) keeps me reading. This article did just that. I think the personal aspect is what makes it so understandable. I don’t have any unbelieving friends unfortunately, but the principal of aiming to change people’s hearts before their actions is one that could apply to a lot of scenarios and, I’m sure, will be helpful to consider at other points in my life.

    • Aw thanks so much Olivia! That means a lot. Maybe you’ll have a chance to witness to unbelievers sometime soon, but I think witnessing to fellow Christians is very important as well 🙂

  • This kind of reminds me of the rough transition I had moving into seventh grade, which caught me totally unexpected and caused me to end up challenging my peer’s moral standards of what’s “cool.” Back in 6th grade, everyone was good, didn’t swear, and were overall well-behaved. In seventh grade, some of those kids (especially the ones that play basketball) all of a sudden start doing things like swearing just to stay cool. Although that hasn’t gone to drugs, fights, or other things like that, the trend of “smoking” Smarties started. This essentially almost alienated from the “cool” peer group, and I managed to stay in a generally good mood by doing extracurricular things and making new, smart friends. Another trend is that many people (mostly boys) take up whatever opportunity they can to play video games, mostly the ones that grant “instant gratification” that you mentioned, like Clash Royale. This article that you made was very relatable, great job!

  • Great article Leah! This is so true. I find myself very often looking down on others for their sin and neglecting sin in my own life. Thank you for this reminder to have a good motive when I confront others about sin.

  • Wow, this was a great article Leah! So often we try to change someone’s behavior instead of realizing that if we change the heart first the actions will follow. Thanks for this timely reminder!

  • Yeah, I totally get your point! I’ve actually had a discussion about this recently 😉 So here’s my view, and I think we probably both agree and disagree to a certain extent…

    All of the verses you mentioned definitely do tell us to show caution with unbelievers as friends. However, they mainly focus on not getting trapped by sin. You’re correct: unless you’re strong in your faith, it’s NOT smart to have close friends who aren’t believers. And certainly, our main circle of friends should be believers, if at all possible. With that said — I don’t think that God doesn’t want us to be close friends with unbelievers. I just think that at some point, you literally cannot have as deep of a friendship with a nonbeliever as you can with a believer, so that’s a natural limit… I also would not be close friends with a nonbeliever that’s trapped in more “catchy” sin (drinking, partying, etc.), as the Bible clearly says is wrong. But it seems to me that God is more warning us to be careful than telling us not to proceed as far as friendships with nonbelievers go. How could one relate to a person they barely talk to? And how can you truly love on someone by limiting contact with them if they need light shined into their lives? Perhaps I’m wrong as well, but what I’ve found is this: proceed with serious caution, but prayerfully continue in friendships with nonbelivers if God so moves 🙂

    • Yup! Makes sense : )

      P.S. – I have had a friend who I thought was a deep Christian, he was my best friend, but he turned out to be a Judas : (

      So just don’t trust unbelievers with your heart’s secrets and tell them all your troubles, because they can back-stab you quite well.

      And I agree: I think it depends on influence and on God’s leading. You can influence them. But if they influence you to sin, back off a bit. And God’s leading is of course very important.

      Teens I know have boyfriends who are unsaved while they professed to be saved. BIG PROBLEM. “Dating Evangelism” is a BIG no no. : )

      • I don’t know if it’s more risky to tell non-believers personal things than it is to tell believers those same things. Here’s the deal: we all sin. And all people, believers or not, are inclined to specific sins. I might have trouble telling secrets to a believer that struggles with gossip, whereas I could tell the same secrets to a nonbeliever that doesn’t struggle with that issue and have no problems. Telling people secrets has more to do with their character than their beliefs, although their beliefs should DEFINITELY affect their character. For your own sake, however, you should confide mainly in Christians, because the people you confide in are the people you go to for help, and you want to be turned back to Jesus for help as much as possible 🙂

        I agree about “dating evangelism”. We could probably talk extensively about that, but given that we already agree it doesn’t seem necessary ;P

  • Wow. That’s a real eye-opener right there. I’ll need to examine myself and see if the same issues are prevalent. Reminds me of a friend of mine, who recently came to Christ.

By Leah M.
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →