There are many who use the statement that Jesus was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Mt.11:19) to rationalize their social alliances and “after-work” camaraderie with immoral and ungodly people. They do this without any concern or attempt to harmonize the clear statements of Scripture which warn that “bad company ruins good morals” (1Cor.15:33), rhetorical questions like, “What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?” (2Cor.6:14), or God’s admonition for Christians to “go out from their midst and be separate from them” (2Cor.6:17). Jesus did of course dine with “tax collectors and sinners” (Mt.9:9-10), but what many seem to purposefully overlook is that Christ’s agenda in those settings was clearly stated – “I came to call sinners to repentance” (Mt.9:12-13; Lk.5:32).
Christ’s enemies tried to make him out to be a companion of evildoers, along with calling him “a glutton and a drunkard” (Mt.11:19), which also was not true. Obviously, all Christians will have necessary interaction with ungodly people in this world (1Cor.5:9-10), and like Christ, we should periodically plan strategic times with immoral people, not to “take part in” their lifestyle, but rather to “expose it” and to plead with them saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph.5:6-14). But when it comes to “down time”, “hanging out” or social interaction, the Scripture is consistently clear: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Pr.13:20).