There is nothing so important as the choice of friendship; for it both reflects character and affects it. A man is known by the company he keeps. This is an infallible test; for his thoughts, and desires, and ambitions, and loves are revealed here. He gravitates naturally to his congenial sphere. And it affects character; for it is the atmosphere he breathes. It enters into his blood and makes the circuit of his veins. All love assimilates to what it loves. A man is moulded into likeness of the lives that come nearest him.
– Hugh Black
In the past week I have had a quite a few conflicts. That isn’t super common for me. I despise conflict, so I generally avoid it at all costs. But, for whatever reason, I had five different conflicts (or potential conflicts) in the past week. As I sat back to think about them today it made me grateful for one very important thing: the people closest to me (who happen to be the people I get into the most conflict with) are all very godly people.
I was reminded that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, the people you are closest to – your very nearest and dearest – should be people who are following Him (as much as you can help it – but not everyone can. For example: unbelieving parents that children must honor and obey or an unbelieving spouse that someone must remain married to). In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul writes, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” He isn’t just talking about getting married here. That isn’t the context this verse was written in. He is talking about being coupled together, or yoked, with someone of “another kind.” Someone who is still dead in their sins and transgressions while you have been made alive.
When God tells us to do something (or not to do something) we can be sure He always has our best interest at heart. He doesn’t just tell us not to be unequally yoked so that He can boss us around, or make sure we hang out with boring people we don’t like, or ruin our social lives. He tells us not to be unequally yoked for His glory and our good.
How does God get glory from us not being unequally yoked? Here are a few reasons that came to mind. First, when we obey Him He gets glory for being shown to be most wise and completely good. Second, when we enjoy people who display God’s attributes, we show that God is enjoyable. Third, God is glorified through the freedom that comes with being equally yoked. You are stronger, faster, and more powerful when you aren’t being weighed down. You are freed up to labor hard in His grace for the Kingdom.
Because of the past week, I can testify that it is for our good.
Let me explain.
On Thursday I had the chance to talk to one of my good friends and at some point in the conversation it became apparent that we weren’t seeing eye to eye on the subject at hand. We had to take some time to try to understand each other and help each other understand our perspective. It didn’t feel like a conflict, although as I look back on it, it easily could have been. What could have been a huge fight was actually a really beneficial conversation because my friend was patient, understanding, and kind. Because we weren’t making accusations at each other. We weren’t belittling each other. We weren’t assuming the worst from the other. No drama. No hurt feelings. No guilt or remorse for having said something that inflicted pain. That’s the benefit of having godly friends.Disaster averted.
Later that night I had a talk with another friend about something that had hurt and upset me. And here is why I am glad to have godly friends – as soon as I told my friend that I was upset, she admitted she was wrong and asked for forgiveness. When I came back and tried to take responsibility for my part in it, she wouldn’t let me accept some of the blame. She took full responsibility. With so much graciousness and care that I felt a bit guilty for ever being upset in the first place. Disaster # 2 averted.
Two days later I got into a tiff with my sister. She didn’t want to come in on her day off after already working overtime to do my hair for free because she was sick and tired (literally sick, and also tired) from her pregnancy & 2 year old son. Rude, right? Ha. I’m kidding. But I wanted to get my hair done and I was upset with her for thwarting my plans. I was being completely unreasonable. I knew it. Unfortunately my brain was not communicating with my emotions that day. So although I knew I was being demanding and bratty, I still felt upset that I wasn’t getting my way. And, because it was my sister who must love me no matter what I do, I let her know it. And this is why I’m so thankful to have a godly sister. A half hour later she was bending over backwards to schedule me in even though she was sick, and tired, and needed to rest. She was willing to put that aside to make me happy. As soon as she said that (or rather, texted me), I told her no way. Absolutely not. I may be a brat. And I may be unreasonable. But I’m not going to punish my sister because my emotions are out of control. I knew I had to just get over it. Again, a beautiful thing came from what could have been a big fight. My sister put my desires ahead of her needs. I did the same for her. And in the end, I got to take care of my nephew to give her some time to rest and get chores done. It was a win-win-win situation. Disaster #3 averted.
Then, last night I said something to a friend that I meant to be encouraging but afterward realized it could be taken the wrong way. So I said I was sorry, that I didn’t mean it to be offensive, and explained what I did mean. Simple enough. This morning I received a text that said, “I wasn’t even close to being offended.” Such wonderful words to hear from a friend! Again, this is why having godly friends is beneficial. My friend wasn’t reading into what I was saying, assuming the worst about me. He is humble enough to have “short toes” that aren’t easily stepped on. And secure enough in what Christ has done on his behalf to be honest with himself and others about who he truly is – weaknesses, failures, sins, and all.
These four events stood in stark contrast to another conflict I had last week, which unfortunately did not end as well. Do you know the kind of conflict that spirals out of control before you are even aware anything is wrong? Yeah, we’ve all been there. It was that kind of conflict, which in general do not end well.
So the moral of the story is?
Obey God and get friends, close friends, who love Jesus. That doesn’t mean surround yourself with strong Christians and have no relationships with immature believers or unbelievers. It just means make sure your “inner circle” is made up of strong. mature, godly people. They will make you stronger.They will free to to serve Christ and further His Kingdom. They will be life-giving. And they will be examples of God’s grace and mercy to you.
And, if you want to be my friend, get ready to be really patient and receive a lot pleas for forgiveness. I mess up a lot. Scharry.