Focal Passages: Proverbs 22:24-25; 17:14, 19; 26:21; 25:19; 13:20; 14:17, 22, 29; 15:18; 16:32; 19:11; 3:3-4; 16:6; 20:6; 10:12; 11:17; 15:17; 17:17; 18:24; 27:9
The way we define “friend” changes considerably between childhood and adulthood. A child will call someone a friend simply because they like to play together and have certain shared preferences. When I was young I had certain friends that I never got to spend the weekend with because my parents knew they wouldn’t be going to church. Although I held on to similar friendships through adolescence, my early adult years confirmed my parents’ convictions. I wanted friendships built on shared Christian beliefs and foundational principles. As Solomon said, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). My friendships deepened with my convictions, and most of them remain today. We must choose our friends carefully.
Although most people like to stand with the tough guys, Solomon warns that a hot-tempered person promotes foolishness (Proverbs 14:29). A retired pastor once told of a time in his adolescent years when his father would not let him hang out one night in town with a group containing some rather hot-headed boys. He became very angry at his father, but wisdom unveiled her beauty the next morning when the future pastor was not at city hall with those boys paying for the street lights they had shattered.
Even if you aren’t actively involved in your friend’s mischief, you will be guilty by association. One of my fifth grade classmates went to the principal’s office and got a paddling for merely observing the group that hung me on a coat rack. While that incident was relatively harmless, it revealed within the young observer a budding character flaw. The last I heard he was in jail and HIV positive, most likely due to drug abuse. Friendships built on righteousness will yield friends that are closer than brothers (Proverbs 18:24), but friendships built on sin will crumble as sin screams, “Every man for himself!”