Should I spend time with my unchristian friends, hoping to be a good influence on them? Or should I stay away from people who are doing wrong things so I don’t do wrong myself?”
The people you hang out with have a big impact on your character. Values, attitudes, beliefs, habits – they are all very contagious! You may not even notice subtle changes in your own soul until you have changed more than you wish. “Simple” things like profanity, attitudes about sexuality, what is appropriate entertainment, and how you treat other people are easily caught.
You can’t spend time in a barnyard and not get dirty.
But didn’t Jesus call His followers to be salt and light? How can you influence others for His Kingdom if you’re not around them? Staying safely inside the walls of the church is not effective. People don’t care about your doctrine if they don’t know and trust you.
You must get out of the saltshaker if your saltiness is to flavor anything. (Matt. 5:13)
How can you deal with this seeming conflict? How can you influence others positively without being corrupted yourself?
Consider these points:
- Stay filled up with good things. If you want to give water to those who are thirsty, you must have something fresh and clean inside you to give. Pay special attention to what fills your own heart and mind, especially the entertainment you enjoy. Consciously fill your mind with Scripture. Guard your personal relationship with God closely.
- Cultivate Christian friends. A lone soldier is easily overcome. Make sure you spend time with others who are growing in their relationship with God. You need others to stimulate your own Christian growth.
- Take a bath often. A soul bath, that is. If you are spending time with people who are stuck in destructive or sinful behavior, you regularly need to get away and get clean. That may be time alone in nature, or at a spiritual retreat, or in a church where you are ministered to yourself. Get where God can wash your insides clean so you can stay sensitive to good and evil.
- Know your limits. I know a very effective minister who had grown up in a certain drug-infested neighborhood. Although he could help thousands of people elsewhere, he knew himself well enough that he felt he could never go back to that specific neighborhood. Ever. There may be some situations where you will remain vulnerable. Don’t risk your eternal salvation.
- Who influences who? That’s the primary question when you are with other people. Are you at a point in your Christian growth where you influence those around you to a greater degree than they influence you? If not, increase the time you spend around godly friends. If yes, then God has prepared you to reach out to those who don’t know Him.
There are people God has uniquely prepared you to reach for Him. May you take many to heaven with you!
Your turn: What kind of influence do the people you spend time with have on you? How do you decide who to spend time with? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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