“Human nature is so constituted that we cannot be much with other people without effect on our own character. The old proverb will never fail to prove true: Tell me with whom a man chooses to live, and I will tell you what he is.” – J.C. Ryle
I worked with youth for many years and this seemed like a constant warning we had to proclaim. “Watch what kind of friends you have. Be aware of peer pressure.” These are common topics for conversation and are emphasized often. We know how easy it is for a teenager to get off track because of the crowd they hang out with. We know that some of the biggest, if not the biggest, influences on their lives are their friends.
But this is not just a concern for teens. It is true for everyone. That office mate you have started to hang out with is rubbing off on you. That neighbor’s views start to make more and more sense. When those friends urge you to do something it can be hard to think why you shouldn’t. Take a look at your life and you will see this truth. We are drifting in a sea of influences and whichever current is strongest is the one which we follow.
We are warned about this in the Bible:
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” 1 Corinthians 15:33
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” Psalm 1:1
There is tremendous power in the company we keep. And because of that, there are 2 applications I think we all need to understand and apply to our lives. First, we need to be surrounded and plugged into a church and Christian community to make sure we have company that supports us and keeps us on track. Second, we need to influence those who don’t know Christ.
So first of all, we need a Christian community. The Christian faith was never meant to be for “Rambo Christians” or believers who think they can take on the world by themselves. Rather faith was designed to be lived out in a community. So live in community. Be plugged in with a church, be involved in its ministries, have friends from that church who speak into your life, go to their small groups or life groups or whatever they call it, and, in short, be part of the church. The Christian community is a great means for growth. The Puritan Thomas Watson said “Associate with sanctified persons. They may, by their counsel, prayers, and holy example, be a means to make you holy.” Place yourself among sanctified people in your church so that they can help you grow in your faith.
This doesn’t mean we circle the wagons or crawl into our Christian enclaves and close the door behind us. There has to be a balance.
There is a balance because we know that we are called to influence the world and our neighbors for God. We can’t hang out with Christians exclusively. Rather we must be out and among non-believers as well. For the majority of us, this is not a problem. We work alongside people who are not followers of Christ every day. We rub shoulders with them as we commute or as we play. But as we rub shoulders and work alongside and build relationships, we must always be aware of who influences who. Are they changing you? Do you reconsider what you believe and how you live? (That is going to happen, it is a given. See it as a time to reexamine what you believe and so grow in your confidence in the truth). The hope is that we start to influence them.
There is immense power in the company we keep. The power of God flows through the Christian community and it also flows through our lives as we live alongside non-believers. Trust in the means that God has placed in our lives for us to stay strong, one being fellowship and community with Christians. Trust in the power that God has given us as we walk into the world to witness for Him.