***DISCLAMER***The following is far from an exhaustive post. Instead, it makes a best effort to answer the question.
Recently, someone asked me how this person, as a Christian, should respond to believing and non-believing classmates. Below is the person’s question followed by my response.
How should I as a Christian respond to classmates who are:
a) nonbelievers who have good conduct and are approachable;
b) nonbelievers who oppose, abuse and oppress me because of my faith;
c) believers who side with the two kinds above because of schoolwork then appear to be close to them;
d) believers who side with the first two kinds of classmates for any reason other than schoolwork? Should I act for their benefit, knowing some of them may have intentions not pure at heart but only for selfish gain? If I am not to approach them, but am called to help them, e.g. in schoolwork, how should I do so to prevent invalidating my own testimony? What if after extended periods of time they are reluctant to change for the better, but instead change for the worse?
1 Peter 3:15 calls for all Christians to always be prepared to give an answer for the hope they have, yet with gentleness and respect. One must treat believers and non-believers with gentleness and respect at all times, if at all possible.
As it pertains to non-believers, regardless of how they treat you, Jesus had some good words to say that can pertain to this (Matthew 5:13-16; NASB):
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Mark 9:50 adds, “Salt is good, but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Some study Bibles state that salt was an essential item in first-century Palestine. In a hot climate void of refrigeration, salt represented the practical means of preserving food. Christians function as a “salt” in society by acting as a preservative via the Spirit and the Word of God (Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:16). They certainly cannot hide their gifts and good works (see Ephesians 2:10, 6:1-9; Colossians 3:18-4:6). Instead, they shine them in such a way that men may see them and glorify God.
Unfortunately, some non-believers may oppose, abuse and oppress you because of your faith. In Luke’s account of the Beatitudes, Jesus said some excellent things (Luke 6:20-36; NASB):
20 And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. 25 Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way. 27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Jesus states that those who are hated, ostracized, insulted and scorned for the sake of the Son of Man are blessed (verse 22). Furthermore, these same people who are hated for the sake of the Son of Man are to love their enemies, do good to those who hate them, bless those who curse them and lend to those while expecting nothing in return (verses 27, 35). It is awesome that God’s Word is so clear on how we are to treat non-believers of various sorts.
As it pertains to believers who side with non-believers, please understand that we are all connected in some way. Associating with non-believers because of schoolwork is hardly a warranted reason to find fault with a fellow believer. However, associating with non-believers for reasons outside of schoolwork may not be recommended depending on what the reason is. It is good to remember that both bad company corrupts good morals and even a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough (1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 5:9; 1 Corinthians 5:6). If at all possible, you do not want to cutoff all communication with either non-believers or those associating with non-believers for questionable reasons. After all, non-believers need the Gospel as much as anyone else (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Romans 6:23, 3:23; Isaiah 53:6; John 1:1, 14; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:1-21; Isaiah 43:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12).
One can help non-believers without invalidating his/her testimony. As mentioned, Jesus states believers are to love their enemies and do good deeds to those who hate them for His Name’s sake. As long as you do not partake in the evil deeds done by the non-believers (see Ephesians 5:11-16), you can do good deeds to/for them without invalidating your testimony. In fact, as mentioned earlier, you can do these in such a way that these non-believers may eventually glorify God and, hopefully, repent of their wicked ways and turn to Jesus Christ.
I hope this helps.