Because I have personally struggled with this and have asked God for his guidance, my eyes have been opened when reading lately. I have found that I just absolutely love Hebrews 12:1 (NLT):
Preach without words
Did you brush your teeth?
Because I am your mother, that’s why.
Were you born in a barn? Shut the door!
Always wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident.
Im going to change my name from Mom.
Use good judgment.
You are who you hang out with.
Yep. Right there, that last one. There are other versions, too. For instance – “a man is known by the company he keeps” or Booker T Washington’s “Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” And, last but not least, the possibility of falling into the trap of being “guilty by association.”
In case you didn’t know, I am going to share a little secret with you: Moms are always right and all of their sayings are going to come back to haunt you one day. You may have brushed it off when you were a kid, but I am sure at least once in life so far you have had to suddenly stop to catch your breath as you picture your mom’s face and say, “holy cow, she was right!” And if this hasn’t happened to you yet, it will…just wait.
Let’s take a minute to talk about those folks you associate with. Have you taken your mom’s advice about who you spend time with? We change and grow as we navigate through life. So what happens if you wake up one day and find out that who you associate with doesn’t really fit your mold anymore? Do you just walk away? And if you cant walk away for one reason or another… Do you just allow yourself to continue to associate with those your mother warned you about?
At some point you may find yourself in this sticky situation. We cannot always just walk away from associations… life is just not that easy. For instance, if you do not agree with your co-workers or the mother of your child’s best friend, you cannot just forget they exist! Maybe you sit on a board and have to associate with a group of people each week that you may find “different.” You cannot just walk away. So the question becomes – how do you handle these situations? How do you hold steadfast to your Christian beliefs and positive nature when surround by those who try to sway you or bring you down?
1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'” And if your eyes are not opened, this can happen. (I think that is what your mom was always getting at.) But we don’t always have to be misled by “bad company.” We could place a spin on this…
Instead of choosing to separate our associates/friends as “good and bad” and “us and them,” what if we choose to let God use us in this situation? Instead of distancing ourselves for fear that we will become “guilty by association,” what if we share God’s love?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
In my head, I am picturing myself running with all that energy I have, jumping over hurdles, barreling toward the finish line, not letting ANYTHING get in my way. (ok, maybe this is because I have been watching the Olympics a lot lately). But, really – it reminds me that even if I am surrounded by people that I disagree with, I am also surrounded by many winners. I am following in the footsteps of Jesus – the greatest winner! I am holding on to joy and looking for victory. I will not be held back by those who choose a different path!
I will not fall victim to the sins of this world due to the company I keep. Instead, I will be a carrier of light to lead them from darkness.
You may not always be in a position to get all “preachy” with your friends/associates, but the manner in which you lead your life is an example. You can preach without using a single word.