Protecting Our Children Day 2: Choosing Friends
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20, ESV)
If you’ve never seen the movie “Remember the Titans,” that needs to change soon! The excellent commentary on race relations and loving our neighbors is elevated by the focus on football and an incredible performance by Denzel Washington (among others). In the movie, one of the main characters (Gerry Bertier) learns the value of choosing the right friends. He and his friends are suddenly in a racially integrated school (and football team) in the horribly divided south in the early 1970s. Initially, Gerry is 100% opposed to his new, different colored teammates. Eventually, through many lessons and eye-opening moments, he warms to embracing his new teammates and friends. But his best friend (Ray Budds) wants no part of it. He consistently pushes Gerry to see things his way, to the point that Gerry ends up cutting off ties with Ray. As the captain, he even kicks Ray off the team and embraces new (and better) friendships. Maybe he understood in some way the truth behind Proverbs 13:20!
I know the temptation in a series like this is to focus on the negative—the consequences of choosing the wrong friends. I promise I will finish by accentuating the positive—the benefits of choosing the right friends—but I must first go into the negative. I wish sometimes that something this obvious would be easily learned. However, having once been a teenager, I know that I was oblivious then to what is obvious now! Solomon knew what he was talking about when he wrote, The companion of fools will suffer harm.” So, why are young girls drawn to the “bad boys”? Why are young boys drawn to the “mean girls”? Why do our children forego common sense, morality, and decency to fit into what they deem to be “the it crowd”? Many of us who are older wish we could go back and tell our younger selves to avoid all the drama and nonsense. It’s easy to see and say it now, but it’s hard to hear when you’re a teenager in high school. It seems like your entire life is going to be ruined based on being considered unworthy to be part of a certain crowd. Some of these kids need a good dose of reality. My kids are unworthy to be in your group? Good! Because these types of ideas come from the “fools.” Choosing friends that are elitist, smug, arrogant, selfish, materialistic, and “too good for you” is a huge mistake. You’ll either change yourself to be accepted by them, or you’ll eventually be changed and become like them. Both are unwise. Choosing friends that are sexually promiscuous, substance abusers, profane, and rebellious? All mistakes, too. If your friends are leading blatantly sinful lifestyles, it’s very hard for it not to affect you.
But then there is the flip side. Choosing godly, honest, humble, selfless, and wise friends? Now we’re talking! Again, we borrow Solomon’s words: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.” While it isn’t a guarantee (we all have free choice), having wise friends makes it easier to make wise decisions. Into my late teen years, probably my three closest friends were my brother, the man who would become my brother-in-law, and a young guy in Michigan. Did I have other friends? Of course! Were they all the wisest of choices? Probably not. But thankfully, the ones closest to me were wise. They kept me honest, challenged me spiritually, and held me in check when I pulled to the foolish side. I’m forever grateful for them. We can only hope our children make similar choices when it comes to friends. As a Christian parent, though, I don’t think I would advise my kids to solely befriend other Christians (my girls are, thank God, all believers). I would advise them to be friendly and kind to everyone—even the “fools.” Don’t change who you are. You answer to God for who you are, not for who they are. Live for Jesus before them. As He said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16, ESV). It could be that the way our children live out their faith could lead fools to wisdom—sinners to the Savior.