Question: 1 Corinthians:5:11 says, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer or a drunkard or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” Since Catholics are idolaters, where should a line be drawn in our social, familial, and work relationships with them? I frankly believe (and I was a strong Catholic until three years ago) that we have become far too “chummy” with Catholics. Or am I just going overboard in my new zeal?
Answer: The many Roman Catholics who become Christians find it necessary for conscience’ sake to leave that church very shortly thereafter, as you apparently did. Thus Catholics encountered as neighbors or at work are in the same category as Mormons, Buddhists or atheists as far as your relationship with them goes. No more with a Catholic than with an atheist should you join in a business partnership or marry or otherwise enter into any relationship that could be categorized as being “unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” Such alliances are forbidden (2 Cor:6:14-18).
Friendship, however, that stops short of being “unequally yoked together” is encouraged in Scripture. We should show God’s love and compassion and concern for all with whom we come into contact, even those who hate us and make themselves our enemies. God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:44-48). Jesus was “a friend of publicans and sinners” (Mt 11:19; Mk 2:15) and even ate in their homes (Lk 7:36, 14:15; Mt 9:10). Friendship may assist in winning some to Christ.
The prohibition against eating with fornicators, idolaters, drunkards, etc. is limited to anyone who “is called a brother [or sister],” i.e., one who has been part of the local fellowship of believers and has been recognized as a Christian by those outside the church. The reason is twofold: to bring about repentance on his or her part, and also to let the world know that such behavior is not tolerated by the church.