Terry R. Baughman
“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26).
The cautious instruction of many parents is often repeated, “Choose your friends wisely,” or “Be careful who you choose for friends!” Through the experience of time we come to understand how vital it is to carefully select those with whom we choose to associate. Influence is a powerful thing, but negative influence often prevails in a friendship. If children choose to play with those who are of good character and proper behavior those attributes are reinforced and appropriate actions follow. However, when the choice is to hang around those of questionable character and rebellious attitudes it is not long before similar responses and reactions are seen in their behavior.
In a scathing indictment, James rebuked those who developed a friendship with the world. He warned, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). As a result of their poor choices there were warring factions and fights among them. Their internal struggles came from these conflicting passions producing murder, coveting, and unfulfilled lusts. Becoming a friend of the world is a costly liability and brings us in opposition to God.
The proverb from our text illustrates the critical truth: to continue in righteousness requires the careful choice of friends. Becoming close to those who are walking in wickedness will draw us down the path of destruction. Amos may have alluded to this proverb when he asked, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
Paul asked a similar question, “What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” He prefaced the question with the admonition, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Paul went on to reference Isaiah 52:11, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
While we are in the world as a light and a witness, we are also salt. There must be a seasoning of grace, a contrast in our associations, a difference in our affections. We can be friendly without being “friends” with the evil of the world. There must always be a distinction in our loyalties and a definition in our love. Love as Christ loved. Intentionally show compassion and care, but never condone sin and excuse evil.
Choose your friends wisely! Our desire is to be a friend of God!
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).