Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 1 Timothy 5:22
Last weekend was a three-day weekend, culminating on Monday, July 4th, which meant that we had a lot of family at our house. It was a fantastic time of swimming, boating, playing cards, and laughing. It’s no one person’s fault, but whenever we get together, we always end up having a lot of less-than-healthy snacks. As the group eats, so do I. I found myself consuming a lot of things I wouldn’t normally eat and subsequently, I found myself up a few pounds from where I was prior to the weekend.
Now, as I step on the scale, I’m annoyed with my lack of self-control. I could have abstained. I could have refused to eat the chips, caramel corn, and pumpkin bars. It’s tough though, in that environment to eat healthy. Whether I like it or not, I’m heavily influenced by those with whom I surround myself. To be clear, pumpkin bars aren’t evil and those who made them weren’t sinning. I’m simply using the analogy to illustrate how my behavior is influenced by the group behavior around me.
In today’s passage, Paul continued his instruction to Timothy on church leadership. He told Timothy not to be hasty in choosing leaders. He was to be cautious and wise in appointing those with whom he associated. Though a mature Christian leader himself, Timothy was not immune to the struggles and failures of others. If he surrounded himself with those enslaved to sin, Timothy himself was in danger of falling into that sin. We are all affected by the behavior – good or bad – of those around us.
Nowhere is principle this more obvious to me than in the one who stays sober in treatment or jail, only to relapse as soon as he (or she) goes home. He may do well in a sober environment, but he doesn’t stand a chance when he returns to a drug-using environment. He may want to remain in recovery, but when everyone around him is using, he soon will too.
As Timothy was instructed, we too must make difficult, painful decisions if we desire to remain pure. If all our friends are using or drinking and we want to remain sober, we may have to sever those relationships. This is hard. Being alone isn’t fun and it’s not easy to just go out and find new friends. If, however, we want to remain in recovery, we’ve got to do whatever it takes to stay there. Change is hard, but if we want the new life more than the old, we must surround ourselves with others who want it too.