Like many things in life, the moments that may have been the most questionable to you are often easier realized in retrospect. Hindsight being 20/20 is not just an adolescent cliché for those moments in life when you wish you could reset and start over evaluating past choices clearly using the information that is now obvious but was not obvious at the time of your decision. Believe it or not when you begin to think, it is by virtue of the thoughts you have chosen to cultivate and encourage that actually create your mind that inevitably becomes the master weaver, of both your inner garment of character and your outer garment of circumstances.
People who think improperly habitually behave improperly. It is like growing a plant from seed, without the seed the plant has no existence, in essence, wrong behavior comes from wrong thinking. Your outward acts come from your hidden seeds of thought, wrong beliefs cultivate wrong standards. The literary work titled “As a Man Thinketh” written by James Allen and published in 1903 is derived and influenced by the 23rd chapter, and 7th verse of the biblical book of Proverbs. This very familiar phrase not only embraces the whole of a person’s being but is so comprehensive it reaches out to the human condition touching every circumstance of your life. You are literally what you think; your character evolves based on the complete sum of those thoughts.
It is impossible to associate regularly with people who straddle the proverbial fence without being contaminated both by their ideas and by their habits. The process can be so subtle that you don’t even notice the gradual development. For instance, your worldview is slowly and progressively shaped by the things you see and experience every day. When people constantly pull you away from the positive areas of your life interfering with your personal goals, you need to take a step back to gain your balance. The way you invest your time in people and activities shapes the person you are destined to become. It has been said, “You are the average of all the people you spend the most time with.” If you spend your time listening to somebody complain about how their hate their job, their boss sucks, what a bad marriage they have, their love life is non-existent, and how they are always broke, it’s going to rub off on you. Your attitude, the way you look at the world, is influenced by your environment, and those you choose to spend time with, good friends will not adversely encourage you or otherwise tempt you at your expense they want to see you succeed. Toxic friends, on the other hand, are fearful of seeing you succeed, because it often serves as a reminder of how they’re not achieving in their lives.
At times, I’ve been tempted to believe I could easily spot questionable character. But recognizing someone’s negative influence is not always automatic; scripture affirms the fact that negative impact isn’t always obvious. How do we learn to discern? The Apostle Paul succinctly described this dynamic in our relationships: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” 1 Cor. 15:33. Paul understood that when people who called themselves Christians surrendered to sinful lifestyles, it dulled their ability to discern right from wrong 1 Tim. 4:1-2. They, in turn, drew others into their recklessness. For Paul, some of the biggest potential enemies to spiritual growth were not those outside the church who were engaged in blatant sin, but those inside the church.
It’s critical to understand how the corrupting power of bad company works and why we sometimes give into its influence. As Christians, we have to face constant temptations and the attacks of the world around us. Everything we see, read, do, hear, put in our bodies, etc., affects us somehow. That’s why, to maintain a close relationship with God, we have to put aside our old ways of doing things. The things we watch on television, the movies we select, the music we listen to, the source of the advice we receive, old bad habits, excessive drinking, smoking, etc., the activities we participate in, and the people we spend our time with. People are only divided into two categories, those who belong to the world and its ruler, satan, and those who belong to God -Acts 26:18.
The book of Proverbs has a few wise verses on believers befriending non-believers: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” Proverbs 12:26. We should stay away from foolish people Proverbs 13:2, 14:7, from people who lose their temper quickly Proverbs 22:24, and from the rebellious Proverbs 24:21. All these things represent those who have not been saved. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14. Unbelievers are slaves to sin John 8:34, and Christians are slaves to God 1 Corinthians 7:22.
Although, we will encounter challenging and sometimes difficult relationships with believers, clearly, the message of Scripture is that believers are completely different from nonbelievers, and it is from this perspective that we must discern what kind of friendships we can really have with unbelievers.