Majoring in Life
In your friendship relationships be careful about who is influencing whom.
Lesson 6: Friends with Fangs
(Knowing when it's time to shed the snakes in your life)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
"Pick what you like. I'll get it for you." Jeanette was all smiles.
"I thought you said you didn't have any money."
"Relax, Carmen. I'll get it on credit."
Carmen toyed with an ivory blouse, curious about how well it would go with her new khaki pants. She didn't need to wonder; she knew it would look great. Handing it to her friend, she hesitated. "I don't know if I like the idea of you buying me a gift on credit."
"Oh, don't be such a sissy." With a wink, Jeanette grabbed the top, piled it with several other items, and disappeared into the dressing room.
Ten minutes later she was back. Tossing an armload of clothes into the reject pile, she marched past Carmen. The smiles were gone. "Let's get out of here."
They exited the store before Carmen had the courage to ask, "What did you do with the shirt I picked out?"
“Just keep moving."
"What do you mean?"
"Look, I'm wearing it. Now come on!"
Carmen couldn't see the shirt, but Jeanette's sweater didn't look quite right. They were on the far side of the parking lot before Jeanette slowed down.
"You stole it, didn't you?"
"What does it matter? It's yours. Besides, I didn't steal anything. I've spent all kinds of money in that store. That was just a five-finger discount."
Carmen shook her head in frustration. But that shirt would sure be nice with those pants.
Old as the Bible
The above story has been played out millions of times in real life. It's a plot as ancient as the Old Testament: A good-but-easily-influenced person meets a bad person—and everything goes bad.
"Now Amnon had a friend named Jonadab.... Jonadab was a very shrewd man" (2 Samuel 13:3). In other words, Jonadab was the long-toothed cobra in Amnon's worst nightmare. His sick-minded advice destroyed Amnon's moral purity and deeply hurt Amnon's family. To top it off, Jonadab's friendship cost Amnon his life.
Read the story for yourself (2 Samuel 13). Hopefully, it'll scare you into thinking about the kind of friends you choose. God wants you wide-eyed and sober on this issue. Paul says, "Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’" (1 Corinthians 15:33). Translation: Be careful; some of your friends may have fangs.
Assuming you're at least mildly nervous, read on.
Been There, Wish I Hadn't Done That
It was supposed to be a simple walk in the park, a time to goof off. Suddenly the wine bottle showed up. Things were no longer that simple.
"You ever drink this stuff before?"
I was in East Germany. When I arrived, I didn't know a soul. Now I had two friends. I thought I needed them in the worst way. Dumb line of reasoning, I know. Before my time there was out, I'd been inebriated three times. I'm talking big time stupidity, vomit all over the place. I was bit by the gotta-have-friends-at-any-cost bug, and the poison sank deep.
It's in the Picking
What are your motives for choosing a friend? Guys tend to ask questions like, "Is he a jock?" "A computer animal?" "Is he funny?" "What kind of car does he drive?" "Can he help me with my homework?" "What's his sister look like?" "Did he actually say ‘Hello’ without adding ‘Geek’?"
Girls may have another set of priorities: "Does she dress right?" "Is she popular?" "Rich?" "Do guys flock around her?" "Am I prettier than she is?"
Those aren't the best reasons for picking someone to hang out with.
You'd be better off with more important criteria, asking questions like, "Is this relationship going to drag me down?" "Is this girl out to use people?" "What's this guy's agenda?" "Will this friendship help me get to know my truest friend, Jesus?" "Is this person open to me talking about my Savior?"
Such questions should make you think twice about your future picks. They may even make you decide to quietly shake certain friends you have now.
This is deadly serious. The kind of people you spend time with will largely determine your life's direction. Your choice may even determine how long you live.
Juan was eighteen, excited about his new relationship with Jesus Christ, anxious to learn more. His desire was to teach God's Word to his native people, the Pima. But he held on to some bad friends.
One day those snakes slithered out of the grass, inviting Juan for one last drink—for old time's sake. Juan should have walked away, but he didn't.
Two days later, I dug his grave.
The car had rolled off a narrow mountain road. The driver and Juan's other buddy stumbled away from the accident, leaving Juan to slowly die alone. Some friends.
The Bottom Line
So what is God saying? Don't have any friends unless they pray six hours a day? That's extreme. Even Jesus had a friend with fangs. Remember Judas? Hermit Christians are not what God wants. We're supposed to rub shoulders with those who don't know Jesus. You may be the only way they'll hear the Good News.
"Should I have non-Christian friends?" is not the question. The real questions are, "In this friendship, who's influencing whom?" and, "Is the influence for the good?" If the influence is bad, and your morality is headed south, it's time to peel off some friends. Fast.
Those fangs can hurt.