I’ve been reflecting on a statement I heard a few months back. A trusted friend said, “we (Christians) are the average of our five closest friends.” When I pressed him for details, he couldn’t explain why. He simply has observed that to be true in his own life and in the lives of other Christians he’s known. It’s a variation of an old adage that, “Birds of a feather, stick together.”
I think my friend is right. And here’s why that may be true.
We want to belong
Very few of us Christians pray regularly for the friends we’d like to have some day, then sit down and make out a list of the most spiritually mature people we know, and make friends with them.
The truth is, most of us simply gravitate to certain Christians, for all kinds of reasons, spiritual and otherwise. It could be they have kids the same age as ours, or they are in the same social/economic class we are, or aspire to be in. It could be as shallow as the way they dress, and as compelling as the character qualities we admire in them.
However, we ended up with the friends we have, the common denominator is that all of us desperately want to belong. We want to be accepted by that group. Here are some implementations of that truth;
- We will generally not challenge the consensus unbiblical beliefs held by our friends.
- We will not generally challenge any unbiblical behavior by our friends.
- Unbiblical beliefs and behaviors that go unchallenged long enough generally become our own.
For better or worse, we become the average of our five closest friends!
So, right now, think of your five closest friends, before you read on. If you have deeply spiritual friends who love God, love you and others, you are truly blessed. If not, you have a decision to make;
Either you will become like them, or they will become like you. Either you will be the influenced or you’ll be the influencer. If you stay silent, you will become (or remain) like them.
30+ years ago, I found myself in just that position. I was a brand new Christian who had many traditional Christian friends but not many were sold out to Jesus. And many of them had some of the very same bad habits I had and was trying desperately to leave behind me.
After a few years, the Holy Spirit finally gave me the wisdom and the courage to speak to some of them about my own sins, (hoping they’d recognize theirs as well). And some did admit them and we talked about it and helped each other to be more Christ-like. Others just thought I’d become a Jesus Freak and was being judgmental. (An accusation that was often true.)
Nevertheless, slowly my friendships changed for the good. I became more like my spiritual friends. They prayed for me. They cheered me on. They loved me. My new friends shaped me and I shaped them in ways my old friends never could.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 12:26
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24
So, has your wife or husband ever said to you, “you’re beginning to sound (or act) like your friends.” Ask your spouse this question; “Which of our friends do you think are helping me mature spiritually and which ones are hold me (or us) back?”
Question: Are your friends cheering you on to godliness, or tempting you to sin or spiritual mediocrity?
How following Jesus works in real life.
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