18 October 2013-
I remember too well the day I quit my non-Christian friends.
I was just 17, a senior, cheerleader, and popular at school, and my youth pastor preached a sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Here Paul is rebuking the people of Corinth for being influenced by those who taught bad doctrine—specifically those who were claiming the resurrection of Christ did not take place.
But my pastor took this verse and used it to warn us, impressionable teenagers, of choosing the right (and not choosing the wrong) friends.
He urged us to pick friends who would build us up and not tear us down. He made the legitimate case that “you become like those you hang out with.” He argued the dangers of evil and the ways the enemy can suck us asunder without our even realizing it. He successfully planted in my heart the reality: I am corruptible. And I am particularly corruptible by friends who aren’t Christians.
And so I made a choice.
At that time I had a considerable amount of non-Christian friends. I had done an “OK” job walking the line between my “church life” and my “school life.” But I began to withdraw from the people that did not know Jesus, people who I had invited to youth group for years, friends who I had talked with about my faith more times than I could count.
I’ve always wondered if I did the wrong thing. When I pulled back from those friendships, did I lose their influence on me? Or did they lose my influence on them?
Many of us who grew up in church may have heard similar warnings. We know we’re supposed to reach out to non-Christians, to invite them to church and tell them about Jesus, but we’re warned not engage too far, to beware their influence on us.
And in a lot of ways, it’s a wise warning that we be friends with the “right kinds” of people. I’ve heard it said that you become like the five friends you hang out with most.
But I’ve begun to wonder if some of us have swung too far in the direction of disassociating with those who are not believers.
I’m ashamed to admit that up until five or so years ago, I didn’t try much to befriend people who were outside my Christian circles. Oh sure, I was kind when we bumped into each other. I said hello on the baseball field, that kind of thing. But did I invite them over for dinner? Did I ask them to coffee? Did I invite them to see a movie? No, I never engaged them beyond a cordial “Hi, how are you?”
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