A captivating black and white photo captures a diverse group of people sharing a meal, embodying the biblical message of Jesus eating with sinners, promoting inclusivity and compassion.

What Does The Bible Say About Hanging Out With Sinners?

The question of whether Christians should spend time with nonbelievers and those engaged in sinful lifestyles is a controversial one. On one side, some argue that Jesus set the example by actively engaging with sinners, calling his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations.

However, others point out verses warning against bad company corrupting good character, arguing that Christians should separate themselves from worldly influences.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The Bible does not prohibit relationships with non-Christians or sinners, but it does warn believers to be careful of partnerships or close friendships that could lead them astray spiritually.

Jesus Befriended Sinners

As evidenced throughout the Gospels, Jesus actively spent time with and showed compassion for those considered “sinners” in his society. His profound teachings and miraculous acts attracted large crowds, offering him countless opportunities to condemn those deemed unrighteous.

However, Jesus saw beyond outward appearances and social standing, instead offering salvation, redemption, and restoration.

Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners

One of the most well-known examples is Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners in Matthew 9. At this time, tax collectors were among the most despised people in Jewish society, viewed as traitors and thieves.

Many religious leaders were appalled that Jesus would dine with such morally compromised individuals. Yet this passage illustrates Jesus’ central mission to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:9-13).

Jesus said he came for the sick, not the righteous

As Jesus stated in Mark 2:17, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Part of connecting with sinners meant acknowledging the spiritual brokenness we all share.

Jesus did not excuse sin; he simply did not allow a person’s reputation to discourage him from offering the grace and redemption they needed.

Examples of Jesus engaging those considered sinful

Throughout his ministry, Jesus was ridiculed for offering compassion to those perceived as unrighteous by the religious ruling class:

  • The Samaritan Woman: Jesus spoke openly with a Samaritan woman in John 4, crossing rigid social and religious divides.
  • The Woman Caught in Adultery: Jesus prevented the lawful stoning of a woman caught in adultery, challenging the crowd to examine their own sin first (John 8:1-11).
  • Zacchaeus the Tax Collector: Jesus dined in the home of this socially scorned yet spiritually seeking man, welcoming him into God’s kingdom (Luke 19:1-10).

Jesus looked beyond superficial spirituality or social standing, instead seeking meaningful heart change for those open to truth and redemption.

Biblical Warnings About Bad Company

Do not be misled – Bad company corrupts good character

The Bible clearly warns believers about the danger of spending time with those who live sinful lives. 1 Corinthians 15:33 states, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'” Spending excessive time with unbelievers who continuously engage in sinful behaviors like sexual immorality, wild partying, gossip, slander, and greed can subtly influence believers to excuse or even participate in those activities.

While believers should reach out to unbelievers with love and the gospel message (1 Corinthians 5:9-10), they must be cautious about developing close friendships with those who show no desire to repent from blatant sin.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers

2 Corinthians 6:14 gives a clear principle, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” Just as two incompatible animals should not be joined together to pull a heavy load, neither should believers and unbelievers pursue close, binding relationships and partnerships.

Such relationships can pull believers away from faithful obedience to Christ. While casual contacts with unbelievers are unavoidable and even necessary for evangelism (1 Corinthians 5:9-10), intimate ties should be avoided. This includes dating or marriage with non-Christians.

Come out from them and be separate

2 Corinthians 6:17 declares, “Come out from them and be separate.” While believers should lovingly engage unbelievers in order to witness to them, there comes a time when separation is necessary, especially when unbelievers show no interest in the gospel.

Continuing close ties may expose believers to dangerous temptations and compromise. Seeking purposeful time apart from ungodly influences aligns with the Bible’s command, “hate what is evil” (Romans 12:9).

Believers can continue praying for and witnessing to unbelieving friends or family from a safe spiritual distance.

Finding the Right Balance as a Christian

Build relationships to share the gospel – but be careful of partnerships

As Christians, we are called to share the gospel with all people (Matthew 28:19-20). Building relationships with unbelievers is often the most effective way to do this. Get to know them, meet needs, and earn the right to share the gospel.

However, we must be careful about forming partnerships or alliances with unbelievers that go against Biblical values (2 Corinthians 6:14). We can develop friendships while still maintaining our Christian identity and without condoning sinful behaviors.

Accept all people with love – but be set apart in holiness

Jesus modeled radical acceptance of all people – tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans – yet called everyone to repentance (Luke 15:1-2). We too must show Christlike love to all people, regardless of lifestyle, background, or sin struggles. However, we must not tolerate or condone sin.

Just as Jesus showed grace and truth (John 1:14), we must balance both – loving the sinner, while hating the sin. We are to be set apart and holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).

Be in the world but not of the world

Christians must live and engage in the world around us, yet not adopt its sinful patterns or behaviors (John 17:14-18). This requires wisdom and discernment. For example, we can work in secular environments without compromising Biblical values or standards.

We can have non-Christian friends without participating in ungodly activities. We can be informed about cultural issues without embracing unbiblical worldviews. As Jesus prayed, we are to remain in the world to fulfill our mission, but not become “of the world.”


In summary, Scripture does not prohibit hanging out with sinners and unbelievers. Jesus modeled developing relationships with people from all walks of life, from the outcast to the religious elite. However, the Bible consistently warns believers to be on guard so that they are not led astray by partnerships or close ties with those engaged in sinful lifestyles.

Christians are called to show Christlike compassion to all people, while pursuing holiness and remaining set apart from the sinful patterns of the world. With wisdom and discernment, believers can follow Jesus’ example of loving engagement with broken humanity while maintaining moral purity.

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