Some Christians think that a Christ follower has to be so accepting of other people that they would never stay away from them even if their presence in their lives is toxic and harmful. They feel responsible to always be there for them and help them to see the light, even when staying is dangerous. Many remain in toxic relationships believing that God will change the person and maybe even God will use them for that purpose.
However Jesus taught that we are to wise in our relationships–Matthew 10:16 says we are to be harmless as doves but wise as serpents. And a part of wisdom in relationships is protecting yourself from harm. Toxic people are those who are loaded down with various lusts and issues that either they are not dealing with properly, or they are using you in some way to control or manipulate their relationship with you. They might appear good and kind, but you’ll know them by their fruits. Paul tells Timothy, “In the last days there will be perilous times. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanders, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, proud, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” 2 Timothy 3:1-5. When we are friends with these kinds of people, we are in danger because “evil companionship corrupts good morals” 1 Corinthians 15:33.
So while we should be loving and kind, Paul does tell us to keep our distance from some people for our own protection. Do you know some people like this? Here what you should do:
Warn them of the consequence of sin. James says, “If anyone strays from the truth and someone corrects him, let him know that he who converts the sinner will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” James 5:19-20. It is good to help turn toxic people away from the wrong they think is right. These people are in need of grace just as we are in need of it. However, if you’ve attempted many times to reach out to them and its had no impact, it might be wise to consider distancing yourself from them as you continue to keep them in prayer.
Turn away from them and their works. Be careful not to associate with their works, 2 Timothy 3:5. It’s not a sin to avoid certain people, after you’ve done what you can to bring them to the light (see Matthew 10:14, 18:15-17). Jesus reached out to sinners but carefully stayed away from those who had a form of godliness but lived in sin. Learn from Jesus.
Don’t hate them, but pray for them. Staying away from such people doesn’t mean hating them or trying to hurt them. While we stay away to avoid being influenced, keep praying for their salvation and repentance. It’s not a sin to keep yourself safe—it’s actually a wise thing to do because the Bible also warns that we can stumble while trying to save the immoral brother. As you step back and pray for that person, it gives God the opportunity to work in their lives and it may be well that a door opens for you to try again with them in the future when you or they are in a better position to do so.