The influence of friends can literally have life and death consequences. Our friends help define who we really are; it is important to choose wisely. Discover what God has to say about your friendship choices.
When I first entered the Army as a 2nd Lt. in an Armor Battalion, we were deployed from Ft. Hood, Texas, to Grafenwohr, Germany. All of the 1st and 2nd lieutenants lived together for six months in a large open bay, which was pretty weird because most of us were married with spouses back in Texas. I chose to sleep in the bunk next to my new friend, named Brad, who was the other Christian believer in the barracks. We spent many an evening and a lot of our free time together, because we knew that many of the potential influences that were made available would suck us into some bad choices. Brad’s influence on me and my influence on him produced a positive accountability that helped us grow stronger in our faith and commitments rather than breaking our fidelity and damaging our character. To this day, 30 years later, I am extremely thankful for the influence of a faithful friend! (from Proverbs 27:17 – “People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron.”)
Good influence: This is a story of four friends taking action on behalf of their crippled buddy. Their positive influence in his life actually led to a new life altogether. Check this out from Mark 2 (also found in Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26). Mark 2:1-12 1A few days later Jesus went back to Capernaum, and the news spread that he was at home. 2So many people came together that there was no room left, not even out in front of the door. Jesus was preaching the message to them 3when four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed man to Jesus. 4Because of the crowd, however, they could not get the man to him. So they made a hole in the roof right above the place where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they let the man down, lying on his mat. 5Seeing how much faith they had, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” 6Some teachers of the Law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7“How does he dare talk like this? This is blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!” 8At once Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Why do you think such things? 9Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk”? 10I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. ” So he said to the paralyzed man, 11“I tell you, get up, pick up your mat, and go home!” 12While they all watched, the man got up, picked up his mat, and hurried away. They were all completely amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Bad influence: In this story from the book of Jeremiah (he was a prophet for God who told the leaders things that God said were going to happen), we see that the bad influence of friends costs the King and the people of Israel a great deal of suffering and death. A real-life episode found in Jeremiah 38. Jeremiah 38:14-28 Zedekiah Asks Jeremiah's Advice 14On another occasion King Zedekiah had me brought to him at the third entrance to the Temple, and he said, “I am going to ask you a question, and I want you to tell me the whole truth.” 15I answered, “If I tell you the truth, you will put me to death, and if I give you advice, you won't pay any attention.” 16So King Zedekiah promised me in secret, “I swear by the living God, the God who gave us life, that I will not put you to death or hand you over to the men who want to kill you.” 17Then I told Zedekiah that the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, had said, “If you surrender to the king of Babylonia's officers, your life will be spared, and this city will not be burned down. Both you and your family will be spared. 18But if you do not surrender, then this city will be handed over to the Babylonians, who will burn it down, and you will not escape from them. ” 19But the king answered, “I am afraid of our own people who have deserted to the Babylonians. I may be handed over to them and tortured.” 20I said, “You will not be handed over to them. I beg you to obey the LORD's message; then all will go well with you, and your life will be spared. 21But the LORD has shown me in a vision what will happen if you refuse to surrender. 22In it I saw all the women left in Judah's royal palace being led out to the king of Babylonia's officers. Listen to what they were saying as they went: ‘The king's best friends misled him, they overruled him. And now that his feet have sunk in the mud, his friends have left him.’” 23Then I added, “All your women and children will be taken out to the Babylonians, and you yourself will not escape from them. You will be taken prisoner by the king of Babylonia, and this city will be burned to the ground.” 24Zedekiah replied, “Don't let anyone know about this conversation, and your life will not be in danger. 25If the officials hear that I have talked with you, they will come and ask you what we said. They will promise not to put you to death if you tell them everything. 26Just tell them you were begging me not to send you back to prison to die there. ” 27Then all the officials came and questioned me, and I told them exactly what the king had told me to say. There was nothing else they could do, because no one had overheard the conversation. 28And I was kept in the palace courtyard until the day Jerusalem was captured. (Read more about the capture of Jerusalem and the gory details of what happens to the king in chapter 39)
Heavenly Father, I ask for wisdom to be able to tell who is a friend of good influence in my life. I want to learn to be wise about my friends as well as to be a good influence on them. Most of all, let us influence each other to understand your Word and be continually healed by your son, Jesus. Amen.
- Check out where most of Jeremiah’s prophecy to the king took place, and where the people of Israel were taken into captivity. http://www.biblemap.org/#Jeremiah_38
- Look at the city of Capernaum where Jesus met the paralyzed man whose friends lowered him through the roof! http://www.biblemap.org/#Capernaum Notice that it’s on a body of water. What’s the name of that big lake? There are many other great stories that take place ON or around that big lake, too. (See Matthew 8:23-27 and Matthew 14:22-33)
The word Proverb means “a wise or clever saying in the form of a comparison or a simile.” Solomon, the son of King David, is credited with writing over 3000 proverbs, and many of them are recorded in the book of the Bible called “Proverbs.”
There are quite a few movies out that are part of the genre "teen comedy." The tacking on of "teen" seems to mean that the movie will be filled with crazy insanely comedic situations that only teenagers could get themselves into. The ridiculousness of these comedies are rarely matched elsewhere. So what is it that pushes these young characters to get into such crazy situations? Their friends!! One of the original teen comedies - American Pie - is completely based on the influence of friends. Every minute one of them is calling the other a pussy or a wimp. They push each other to prove their manhood by doing anything it takes to hook up with a girl. The focus of sexual gratification and the social status that comes with it is practically all that these films are about. While movies like American Pie, 100 Girls, Harold and Kumar, Van Wilder and Superbad, are funny and often contain at least one couple that has true love on the brain, the influence of the friends to make each other do some pretty insane (and usually regretful) things is undeniable. Not all of the influence is bad though. Often a character is pushed to stand up for themselves and find their inner strength, and you see the influence of his friends give him the courage he needs. There are good things that result from the teenage characters convincing each other to do more in life, but there is something in the way it is done that is disconcerting. The name-calling and verbal put downs that pour out of their mouths seem to counteract their entire argument. In the midst of encouraging their friend to do something good in life, the friends constantly berate and insult one another. The influence of the friends in these films is evident, but their compassion and genuine love for one another is often less clear, making these films both saddening and poor examples to a certain extent. It seems like often we ridicule our friends rather than encourage them. We choose to shame them into action rather than empowering them through loving acceptance to succeed.
1 Corinthians 15: 31-33 – The apostle Paul writes a letter to the believers in Corinth discussing the influence of certain kinds of friends.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 - a reality described
1 Thessalonians 5:14 – be an influencer for good
This YouTube clip is from a classic story of friendship between Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings. What biblical ideas on ‘what makes a good friend’ do you find in this one scene? Look for themes of loyalty and commitment and encouragement.
From the Disney movie Aladdin, the Genie describes himself as a special kind of friend with a special kind of influence. How might his effect on Aladdin be positive and/or negative?
If you have Facebook, look at how many ‘friends’ you have. Understanding something about the influence of friends, identify the friends who are the top five positive influencers. How have they positively influenced you? Can you label the ones who are negative or bad influences on you? Remembering some of the proverbs, should you consider keeping them as friends?