Every normal being craves the company of others of his own kind. The desire is as natural as breathing. Instinctively we feel that we must have companionship with others whose interests and aims are similar to our own, and in whose activities we can share. We seek contact of mind with mind and of heart with heart.
Another tendency which is strong in us all is that of imitation. Willingly or unwillingly we become like those with whom we associate. For better or for worse they influence our thought patterns and give shape to our characters. Says A. T. Pierson: “The very idea of companionship implies interchange of thought and feeling; and the closer the bond of intimacy, the more perfect is the interchange; so that what dominates and controls our chosen intimates will more or less come to influence ourselves …”
It is next to impossible to have any kind of suggestion continually before us and not be swayed by it in one direction or another. And just as the contagion of disease is carried from one person to another, so moral impurity, whether in thought or act, will contaminate any who are in habitual contact with it.
It is well to pause occasionally and ask oneself “In what direction, morally and spiritually, am I going?” The answer will often be determined by the character of one’s companion’s. The habitual company of Christians (that is of practising Christians) cannot be otherwise than helpful and elevating. Companions of another kind are bound to be hurtful in their tendency. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Prov. 13:20). It follows that carelessness in the forming of friendships can be disastrous. Yet, how many are entered into with little thought — in fact are simply drifted into. Anyone who is not upright, clean and godly is not a safe companion. He may be clever and attractive, but cannot be a really helpful friend.
Let none of us think that we are immune to the influence of evil surroundings. Experience has proved that few have the moral stamina to resist suggestions of evil to which they have been exposed for any length of time. Of the man referred to in Psalm one, it is said that he “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” He refuses to expose himself in any way to the influence of evil around him. On the other hand, the Psalmist is able to say “I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts” (Psalm 119:63). Wise is the young Christian who cultivates the companionship of truly worthy and devout people. They will enrich his life and help greatly in giving suitable direction to it.
We do well, as Christians, to remind ourselves frequently of the relationship in which we stand to the Lord Jesus Christ. We have been brought into union with Him in His risen life. This being the case, it is to be expected that we will “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” We are to “set our affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-3).Surely, if we are at all loyal to Him, we shall not wish to be found in associations or taking part in activities such as the children of this world would lead us into! That would be to slight Him! And if we are realizing and enjoying the rich portion we have in Him, we shall not be hankering after the empty trifles that the world has to offer.
Let us remember that the Holy Spirit is with us and in us. We take Him wherever we go (1 Cor. 6:19). The presence of a human friend would tend to make us careful as to where we go and with whom we are found. How much more should HIS presence cause us to avoid anything that would be a grief to Him (Eph. 4:30)!
The world unceasingly makes its bid for our friendship. How ready we can sometimes be to adopt its view-points and learn its ways! Are we ignorant of its real character? Its hands are stained with the blood of the Son of God. It still rejects Him. It is a system in which man is attempting to make the greatest possible progress in complete disregard of God. Covetousness, self-pleasing and pretense are among its guiding principles. Its whole atmosphere is polluted. Its influence is contaminating. It is controlled by the devil (John 14:30; Eph. 2:2, etc.). It is heading for eternal perdition. Our only safety is to avoid its ways, refuse its blandishments, and “keep ourselves unspotted” from it (James 1:27). Remember, though IN the world we are not OF it (John 17:11, 14, 16). And the “friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4).
Some will be quick to remind us that since we are in the world, we must do business with it, and that of course it true. What should be our attitude toward those around us? In all our dealings with them let there be true humility and no suggestion of a “holier- than-thou” attitude. We can claim no superiority in or of ourselves. Conceit and haughtiness have no place in true Christian conduct. Therefore, while ever walking in separation, let our conduct be characterized by honesty, courtesy and a healthy winsomeness. Misunderstood we will be. Worldlings will frown upon us for avoiding their ways. But what matters their frown, if our path is pleasing to God?
Something needs to be said about the “unequal yoke,” the dangers of which many do not realize. By it is meant anything by which saved and unsaved are united in the pursuit of a common object. The “yoke” may be social, commercial, matrimonial or religious. The principle remains the same, whatever the object. The command is clear: “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers .. .” (2 Cor. 6:14). The one who ignores it is treading a dangerous path, and invites disaster. He places himself in a position where the guidance of the Lord cannot be expected, and cannot rightly expect to be prospered spiritually, for God will not accommodate Himself to his disobedience.
In the sphere of matrimony the unequal yoke is nothing short of a tragedy. It is a union which can be expected to bring nothing but unhappiness for both partners. And yet, because it sometimes appears very attractive to nature, it is only too easy to become involved.