II Corinthians 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”
I Corinthians 15:33-34, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.”
When we talk about the relationships we choose and God’s view of who (and who we shouldn’t) befriend, marry, or associate with, people usually turn to this passage. The ASV renders verse 33 of I Cor. 15 as “corrupts good morals” instead of the term manners. And the message is quite simple – be careful about who you associate with. Why? Because they typically have a direct effect on your morals, your beliefs, and even your way of thinking. People may scoff at the idea (perhaps even mock it), but history has proven this pattern is true. Bad influences do in fact corrupt good morals or manners.
Our close relationships eventually do one of two (2) things in our lives. One, they can build us up and bring us closer to living by the truth or two, bring us down and further away from a righteous life. And that’s a question we’re all faced with answering when we make the choice of who we spend our time with. The fact of the matter is, we’re either affected, or we’re the ones affecting someone else.
Heb. 10:23-24, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:”
There are three (3) critical relationships in our lives that we should always be mindful of in striving to follow the pattern and teachings of the New Testament.
1) In our earthly or worldly friendships. It has long been implied that Christians are “in the world and not of the world”. And while this exact phrase cannot be found in New Testament scripture, we understand the concept and implication from reading passages like John 15:18-19. Perhaps the greatest trick Satan plays on our minds is that since we are all people (we are all human), we should act alike, talk alike, and BE alike. And for the most part, people try to live their lives by this philosophy. But that just isn’t what God commanded.
II Cor. 6:17 again says to come out from among THEM! Yet a lot of us would never consider our school or work friends as “them”. It’s hard to imagine your relatives or even family members as “them”, people we care deeply about. But if they’re non-believers, that’s exactly who they are. This verse also applies to those who have left the truth though (as Paul wrote about earlier in I Cor. 15). In reality, you could define “them” as anyone failing to live a righteous life of obedience to the gospel and God’s commands.
Proverbs 24:1 says, “Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.”
Rarely is it the murderer or thief we try to befriend – they are easy to separate ourselves from. I doubt any true believer considers these types of people as “friends” or even acquaintances. Instead, it’s “good people” (by the world’s standards) we sometimes befriend who fail to obey God’s commands and live any way they choose. And sadly, yes, it’s sometimes even our own family members or former Christians who turned their back on God that gradually lead us away from the truth.
We all have to sit back and evaluate our relationships with friends and ask, “what affect are we having on the lives around us?” And we should be honest enough with ourselves to realize if we are rubbing off on them, or are they rubbing off on us?
2) In the relationships we have with brothers and sisters in Christ.
Again, I Cor. 15 says it best when Paul warns us to be careful (even in the Lord’s Church) of those we choose to have a close relationship with.
Jesus warned that men would come around to deceive and lead Christians away in Matthew 24:11. In Matt. 7:15 he described them as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Paul’s writings were consistent with this thought, so much so that the same language was used in Acts 20:29 when he warned that after his departure, grievous wolves would enter, not sparing the flock.
Of your OWN selves he says, men will rise up and speak perverse things; that’s things against the pattern we follow, against what we can find written in God’s word. We don’t have to be around too long to see that still occur today; the Word is exactly right. Peter also wrote about false teachers, ”coming also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you” (II Peter 2:1-2).
Just look at all the places in the NT where we’re warned about our own brethren turning away from the true gospel to spread their own thoughts; their own thoughts or doctrine. We shouldn’t be foolish enough to believe every congregation in those times calling themselves a Church of Christ was acceptable to God, just as all those who wear the name today are worshipping as God would have them to.
Entire congregations have been led into error when members choose a false-teacher as a close friend and trusted adviser. But in turn, many non-believers and sometimes nominal Christians are led closer to the truth by attaching themselves closely with dedicated members of the Lord’s church, seeking to follow the gospel truth as it was delivered. Because the human emotion can be swayed so easily, it’s critical we make our choice wisely.
3) In the marriage relationship we choose.
Genesis 2:18, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Verse 24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
Despite cultural traditions or changes in society (from the beginning of time), God’s plan for marriage included one man and one woman. They become one flesh for the remainder of their lives together. The term “help meet” in Gen. 2:18 means exactly what it sounds like…one who helps. And while a wife is to be submissive, helping her husband, Ephesians chapter 5 commands that husbands love, cherish, and honor their wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it (Eph. 5:23-28).
Marriage trumps any other earthly relationships we could have with someone. Besides our commitment to obey and follow God, it’s the greatest decision we’ll ever make. Our text in II Cor. 6:17 again commands that we come out from among them and be a separate people. But you’ll remember just a few verses back; Paul delivers this message in verse 14; “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
Despite what anyone may say otherwise, Paul is talking about the earthly relationships we commit ourselves to – our friendships, business partners, and certainly who we marry! In the 14th-16th chapters of Judges we find the account of Samson, a man holding a special position in God’s sight. His decision to marry Delilah teaches a valuable lesson for us all. A poor decision in who we marry may not bring initial heartache, but we’ll likely suffer troubles we could have otherwise avoided had we married someone faithful and devoted to the Lord.
In many ways, our relationships can make or break us in our Christian lives. We all make the decision in who we are going to allow access to our emotions, concerns, our dreams and goals. Not everyone deserves a ticket to our life, and we should be picky in who we allow to influence us.
The mother of a teenage girl became increasingly concerned about the friends she started seeing her daughter hang around with. More importantly than that, she and her husband were worried that instead of once influencing her friends for the better, she was being influenced by others for the worse. She didn’t immediately know how to bring up such a subject and knew her young and impressionable daughter wouldn’t like hearing anything she had to say about the changes evident to her and her father. So after sitting back week after week without saying a word, she finally decided on a strategy that would resonate with her daughter.
In the kitchen one afternoon the girl’s mother began filling three pots with water, and placed each on a high fire in front of her daughter. Soon the pots came to boil, and the mother threw a handful of carrots into the first pot, a few eggs into the second, and ground coffee beans into the last. She let them sit and boil, all without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners and first fished out the carrots, placing them in a bowl. Then she pulled the eggs out, placing them in a separate bowl, and finally ladled some of the coffee into a third.
Turning to her daughter, she asked, ‘”Tell me what you see.” With a puzzled look, but sure of what she saw, the girl answered, “Carrots, eggs, and coffee.” Her mother then asked her daughter to feel the carrots. So she did, and noted that they were soft. Then the mother asked her daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled inside. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted the strong aroma and asked her mom, “What exactly does this all mean?”
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. But each item reacted in a different way. The carrot went in strong, firm, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique though. After they were in the same boiling water, they remained true to form, but in the process…had actually changed the water. Then the mother simply asked her daughter a question; “Which one are you”?
What affect do you have on the friends around you? Are you the one being changed and affected by who you associate with, or are you allowing others to dictate your life? Our relationships here on earth directly affect our life of service to God. We should choose our relationships wisely, always evaluating their influence on our lives and the people they lead us to become.