Rule #25 Choose your friends carefully.

By all intents Rule #25: Choose your friends carefully. is an extension of Rule #18: Guard your heart. But I felt it was important enough to separate into it's own principle, partially because it was so influential an idea for my life. When you first fall in love with Jesus its looks like a genuine human romance. But like beginning a human romance their is a sacrifice that must be made to step into that world. For a romance this usually means pulling away from past romantic interests and simply having less time with your friends. But if it's true love the sacrifice seems minimal or even nonexistent. But for some reason this sacrifice is so much more difficult to make for Jesus. At least it was for me. I had a couple friends, close friends, that I spend a majority of my time with. And was clear to me that they were not just holding me back in my relationship with Christ they were actively sabotaging it. Every time I took a step forward these friend would grab me by the arms and drag me 3 steps back. From swearing, to explicit images, to video game addiction they intentionally hooked me on whatever they could maintain control and stop my progress towards Jesus.

I constantly made excuses to remain friends with them. I could be a good influence, we've been friends for so long, I can't abandon them. But I knew in my heart what needed to happen. It was time to pluck out the right eye that offended me. To cut off the left hand that caused me to sin [Matt 5:29-30]. The most difficult thing I had to do in my Christian walk was abandon a friend that was stopping my progress in my relationship with God. I had to choose between Him and a fellow human that was sabotaging my relationship. Thank Jesus that God won that battle for my heart. In my time of greatest turmoil I was given the scripture 2 Cor 6:14: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with the darkness?" Like it so often and so well does scripture gave me the perspective I needed to make my move. I always wrestled with abandoning a friend. I am generally a very faithful person. How could a God to teaches faithfulness ask me to abandon a close friend. But Rule #1 showed a higher law. Commandment #1 showed a higher law, And 2 Cor 6:14 showed a higher law. My relationship with Christ is first. It was the most difficult sacrifice I made for Jesus and perhaps he most sweat. I broke all communications with this friends. And my relationship with Jesus flourished. I was launched into nearly two years of glorious learning, discipleship, and spiritual growth. All of it would have been impossible without that sacrifice.

Matt 16:26 says "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and losses his own soul?" I did not see this scripture at the time of my great struggle but I realize now this is what the battle was about. My soul was sick and dying and God was trying to resuscitate it while I kept feeding it poison. When your devotion to Christ is at risk it is always the right thing to abandon all and seek hard after him. I had to do a second round of cuts a few years after collage. My collage friends were great but I built a new circle of influence. A seemly healthy Christian circle. But I was constantly tired, angry, hurting, broken, and burned out. I began to wake up in the morning and think "I don't want to go to church". This may not sound like a crises of faith but the Bible and church history both make it infinitely clear that the gathering of believers is essential o the faith of a Christian. Questioning if church is necessary is a crises of faith. I realized this and this time it was much easier to make my cuts. I needed the life of Jesus fast. I started by removing any drain on my life and energy. People who I was ministering too who were strong enough to venture out on their own. Those that were not strong enough I passed onto other mentors. I then pulled out of leadership and freed up time to rest, have fun, and seek after Jesus. What I discovered was my new circle of friends were too legalistic for a sustainable life. They loved pursuing God with passion, and seeking hard after him. But they were constantly urging a level of sacrifice that was not realistic for someone outside of full time ministry. My job suffered, my social life suffered, and I was so busy planning and leading events my relationship with Jesus suffered. The irony was they were so passionately pursuing activities that good Christians do like group prayers and evangelistic events it left no time for the people to have a personal relationship. I didn't leave these friends the same way I left my childhood ones. It was much more civil, and I maintained some relationship. They were not dead weight and actually have much positive influence. They just weren't healthy as my only or primary influence.

I've had other friend enter and leave the stage of my life but they were much easier to say goodbye too. Some have betrayed my trust. Some simply didn't have their priorities straight. Some I caught the negative influence they had over me before any real relationship developed and that is the ideal protection.

With all that said here is what to look for in a friend: 

  1. They follow Rule #1. - They place their personal relationship with Christ over their relationship with you.
  2. They are trustworthy. - If a friend betrays your or someone else trust dump them. They do not deserve friends. If they are open to change, be willing to keep them at a distance until the trust is earned again.
  3. They build you up. - I like to call this life-giving. Some relationships pull energy from you. Some relationships add energy too you. Always make the latter your friends. The former can be mentored if they are willing or dumped if they are not.
  4. They point you to Jesus. - They don't even have to be Christians themselves but they do have to respect your faith and hold you to your convictions if they are going to take the place of friend.

This part is easy for me as I am an extreme introvert. But don't expect to have a lot of friends. Research shows that even with extroverted people having one or two close friendships outside your family is enough to feel fulfilled. People with a dozen close friends have the same level of fulfillment in life as those with only one. Don't try to build a huge circle of close friends. Choose a remnant.