Tell me what company you keep, and I will tell you what you are. Cervantes

The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn. David Russell 

A final sign that a person may be just a believer is when one looks at their friendships. As mentioned earlier, God made us for others, and others are made for our good as well. It’s a reciprocal relationship. This is the epitome of what it means to be the body of Christ—the powerful influence of good friendships. Believers, however, often shun friendships with those who share in their faith. Often, because their life is so crazy and out of whack, it’s difficult and uncomfortable for them to hang out and befriend those who have a relationship with God. I knew this firsthand. Early on when I became a Christian, I did not enjoy being around those who shared my new-found faith, because my conscience was always telling me things were not quite right in my life. To be with other Christians in some sense seemed to reveal to me how I was really living—that there were significant parts of my life that were misaligned. Therefore, there was a time in my life when I had few friends who had a relationship with God. Ironically, for me, my closest friends were actually adverse to Christianity, and whenever we got in discussions about faith or similar topics, they would let me know in no uncertain terms how they felt about my faith. Eventually, I dropped the topic altogether.

At that time, I was a follower, but not really a follower of Jesus. My friends influenced my beliefs and actions more than I did theirs. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you might be in this stage of faith—1) who are you impacting in your life, and 2) who influences or mentors you? Overall, are your friendships genuinely healthy and moving you forward emotionally and spiritually? And if some of those friendships are not healthy, are your friends influencing you in negative ways? Do you gravitate toward their way of life in harmful ways? If most of your friendships are negatively influencing your life, you probably need some new friends.

This is always a difficult topic to broach because sometimes friendships such as these have been a part of our lives for a long time, perhaps even since childhood. At this point in my own life, this was a very difficult decision that I had to make. I had had a friend of many years, but when we were together, it was really David who directed my life. I can clearly remember one day in which God said to me, It is David or it is Me. God knew that I could never become the person I was supposed to be, if David had this much influence in my life. But with this, David was no devil or some awful person; he was kind and generous and had brought a lot of good things into my life. God loved David, but he also knew that there were aspects in which he was holding me back with my relationship with Him, and if I was going to move in the right direction, I would have to give up that friendship, because in many ways it was very unhealthy. As one example, David was adamantly an atheist and if ever a topic about faith came up, he quickly and angrily squelched it. The reality of it was that when I was around him, I could never really be myself. And isn’t that the prerequisite of a good friendship—you can always be yourself? As St. Augustine wrote:

Bad company is like a nail driven into a post, which, after the first or second blow, may be drawn out with little difficulty; but being once driven up to the head, the pincers cannot take hold to draw it out, but which can only be done by the destruction of the wood.

Of course, we can’t always alienate our lives from those who don’t share our faith; Jesus never isolated himself from those who were foreign to his words and ways. But his model is our model—his most intimate of relationships were with those who knew him. We do have to be careful with whom we share our lives. As the famous Proverb states, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” (4:23) Our most intimate of relationships most likely will be with those who share this unique and beautiful relationship that we have with Jesus. When we want to open up and share what is going on in our lives with our relationship with God, these will be people who know what we are talking about. For others, who do not share in this, they will simply think we are speaking a foreign language, and therefore, this is why we really need to assess our friendships to see how healthy or unhealthy they are.

In: Friend to Jesus
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