In Choosing Close Friends
Roland Worth, Jr.
It is difficult to get people to realize that they should choose their friends with care. It is easy for them to brush aside the admonition as a needless warning. Yet a careful consideration of the matter shows that this is the wrong reaction.
1. In choosing our friends we should remember the fate that their immoralities will earn them. In the symbolic language of the book of Revelation, "But as for the, cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8; cf. 22:14-15). In less picturesque language Paul makes the same point, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Then Paul adds the comment, "And such were some of you" (v. 11); note the past tense, which indicates that they no longer were supposed to be such. Hence, if we fall back into those sins because of our close association with the worldly we will share the same fate as the worldly, exclusion from the eternal kingdom of heaven.
2. In choosing our friends, we should remember that the outsider has little or no reason to uphold the moral .standards that we practice. Peter warned the Christians of his day that they would be criticized for their abstention from the evils popular in that day. "Let the time that is past suffice for doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you do not now join them in the same wild profligacy, and they abuse you" (1 Pet. 4:3-4). Our living differently from others constitutes a continued indictment of the way they act. So it is no wonder that they can not peacefully tolerate this. They have to lash out in order to blot out any personal feelings of guilt. But why should we expose ourselves to such needless taunts by a bad choice of associates?
3. In choosing our friends, we should remember that their evils will tend to rub off on us. Paul warned the Corinthians. "Do not be deceived: `Bad company ruins good morals"'(1 Cor. 15:33). The nation Israel made this mistake when the people refused to remove the sources of moral contamination that dwelt in their land, "They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the harlot in their doings. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he abhorred His heritage (Psa. 106:34-40). (The parallel to the danger the church faces when it allows blatant moral evil to go unchecked in its midst should be obvious.)
4. In choosing our friends, we should remember that if we partake of the same evils as they do we will be punished in the ,same way. This point has been mentioned in passing but it bears re-emphasis. We have already noted Paul's warning (1 Cor. 6:9-10) that corrupt morals will keep a person out of heaven. The apostle's warning to Timothy not to "be partaker of other men's sins" (1 Tim. 5:22, KJV) is an admonition that should be heeded by all.
5. In choosing our friends, we should remember that we are under the obligation to separate ourselves from them if they are acting as a drag on our faith and morality. This is what Paul is referring to when he writes, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers... Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord... Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 6:147:1, KJV). The apostle John makes the same point when he writes of fallen "Babylon," "Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, `Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities' " (Rev. 18:4-5).
We should choose our friends with care; they will have an impact on us whether we wish to admit it or not. Many centuries ago Sallust recognized this when he wrote, "To live in friendship is to have the same desires and the same aversions." If we do not have the same likes and dislikes when we begin our friendship, our close acquaintance will tend to cause them to come out as time passes. We should heed the warning of Charles Spurgeon, "Take care of your best friends; be careful of your companions. Choose the best you can; then follow them no further than they follow Christ."
Truth Magazine XXII: 31, p. 498