When My Mom Was Worried that I Was a Follower
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
When I was perhaps four or five, I had a neighborhood friend over one day, and as he was leaving for home, my mother gave me some task that I was supposed to do. I don’t remember what it was, but my friend told me I should just ignore her, sneak away, and go home with him. That hadn’t occurred to me, but it sounded like a great idea. So, at my friend’s suggestion, I did it. Eventually my mother tracked me down and I got in trouble. Later in life, I remember my mother telling me that she worried about me as a child for being such a follower. She was probably justified.
Now, in working with those who struggle with addiction, I often see this same kind of negative peer influence. The one who’s struggled with chemicals may do well in jail or treatment, only to leave and go back to the same using friends. In that environment, he doesn’t stand much of a chance. It’s hard enough to overcome his self-destructive behavior patterns on his own, but when those around him are actively undermining his recovery, relapse is just a matter of time.
This may be obvious in the addiction scenario, but it’s less obvious in our own lives. We may not struggle with drugs, but we all have those friends (and maybe family) who make us better and those who make us worse. Whether we like it or not, our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors are heavily influenced by those around us. When we spend time with those who are moving in the direction we want our lives to go, we find encouragement and support to do the same. When we spend time with those who’re going the opposite way, we also find encouragement, just in the wrong direction.
In today’s passage, Paul warned of the inevitable dangers and sorrows that come with joining ourselves to those who don’t follow Christ. He said we must not attach our lives too closely with those who aren’t going in the direction we want ours to go.
Does this mean we can only associate with those who believe exactly as we do? No, on the contrary, Jesus sends us into the world to do his will (John 17:15-18). Paul didn’t teach that we shouldn’t live in the world, just that we shouldn’t be attached, yoked, or married to those whose lives don’t enhance our life purpose. If we want our lives to go in a certain direction, we’d do well to spend our time with those who’re going the same way.