Thinking Out Loud

May 27, 2018

Your Choice of Friends

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:21 am

This summer I’ve been asked to be part of a preaching team at the church that will be working through the book of Proverbs. One that has stayed with me over the past few years is Proverbs 13:20,

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Anywhere you see a verse which contrasts wise and foolish or wisdom and foolishness you are effectively seeing a microcosm of the entire book of Proverbs; this is the book’s overarching theme, seek wisdom. It echoes throughout the book in many places including the next chapter:

Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips.
(14:7 NLT)

Years ago, my parents found me a “youth edition” of The Living Bible’s book of Proverbs called Get Smart. The title is rather pithy — and possibly alludes to a TV show of that era — but this is indeed the message of Proverbs: Seek wisdom. Get wisdom wherever you can find it. Treasure wisdom like a fine possession.

We sometimes use the expression “married up” to describe someone whose life was bettered by finding a companion who could lift them to greater experience and potential. I would argue the Bible is making a case here for “friending up.”

This doesn’t mean we simply toss friendships that don’t meet a certain standard, but at the very least, it demands an awareness of whether our friends are lifting us up or bringing us down. The reason is simple: Wisdom in contagious, but so is foolishness.

Many are the people who would have, at one point said, “I would never say that;” or “I would never go there;” or “I would never do that;” but got talked into something because an influential friend or group of friends was saying/going/doing that particular thing.

We tend to think of peer-pressure and conformity as something that needs to be taught in Sunday School or at youth group. We rarely consider how it continues to impact us as adults. It’s possible that some reading this have heard J. B. Phillips rendering of Romans 12:2 more often than the more traditional version:

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

I think it’s important to note that the verse doesn’t say,

  • Whoever walks with the wise is wise and
  • Whoever walks with the stupid is stupid!

No! It goes beyond that and “a companion of fools suffers harm.” We can say that sooner or later, foolish behavior leads to negative consequences. 1 Timothy 5:24 reads:

Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. NKJV

The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. MSG

Time will tell. We see this also in Exodus 34:7b. I know this passage is interpreted many different ways, but I’ll simply toss it into the mix for you to consider:

“…Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

I can’t leave this without remembering the warning of Jesus in the Sermon on The Mount concerning the consequences of becoming foolish:

NIV Lk 7.24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I think it’s also important to remember that to “walk with” or “journey with” people today may mean to journey with them online. Many of us have a great depth of relationship with people online which can affect our worldview or decision-making.

Here are some practical indicators something might be wrong:

  1. when you realize your core group is moving in a direction you want your life to move in
  2. when you find yourself pretending to be someone other than you are
  3. when you feel pressure to compromise (when something that was previously never a real temptation becomes a live option)

Our relationships can set the trajectory for our lives. Someone has put it this way:

Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.

Again, walk with the wise!

October 2, 2009

Opposite Sex Encounters

Filed under: family — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 pm

On Thursday, Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like told the story of being scheduled to get a ride back to the airport with a woman following a conference appearance.    (To his credit, he requested another driver.)   He then used the story as a springboard to discuss other contexts in which men and women suddenly find themselves in a situation with person of the opposite gender.

If you missed it, you should click here.

Jon obviously struck a nerve, because as of this writing, there are 172 responses to that short article.

I can relate.    In my job I encounter times when I am relatively “alone” with someone of the female persuasion.   But I relate more to his story because there is something much more intimate about being in a car with someone.   When I was doing itinerant youth ministry, guys would sometimes want to talk and the car was probably the best place to get away from the crowds.  And as for girls, well, that’s why guys buy cars in the first place.   The bus and subway is far cheaper.

So while I often experience one-on-one discussions with women, I would estimate that probably only four or five times in the last twenty years have I been driving someone somewhere and it was just her and I.    (A couple of specific people come to mind, and I’m assuming there were probably a couple of others.)

In the one type of case, it’s just a simple matter of conversation and transportation.   In the other type of case, there is a sexual tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.

And in another case, that didn’t take place in an automobile, I was just talking to someone who seemed to, for lack of a better phrase, radiate some kind of sexuality or sexual energy.  She wasn’t “hot” in the sense people use that word today, but there was some other thing going on that’s tough to define.

caution danger

Fortunately, I had bright red “DANGER” signs flashing in my brain during that conversation.

So I already know that Jon’s post resonated with a lot of readers.   I guess my question would be:   What is it that creates the awkwardness or tension in some situations that is totally absent in others?

November 23, 2008

Making a Christmas Card List and Checking It Twice

Filed under: Christianity, Christmas — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:23 pm

christmascard2005Do you send Christmas cards?   Over the past several decades, there has been a steady decline in the giving of Christmas cards by many people.  Postal rates rise.   Busy schedules keep people from getting around to it.   E-mail substitutes for postal mail as a way of keeping in touch.

For the past five years, with a few exceptions, I think every card we received was from a business supplier.   But this year, we’ve been thinking of the many people who have helped and encouraged us this year in a variety of different ways, and decided that this is a very small thing we can do to show our appreciation, irrespective of how many cards come our way.

So again, do you do cards?   If not, why not?

November 14, 2008

Some Friendships, Like Water, Tend to Sink to Their Lowest Level

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:40 pm
“…spurring one another on towards love and good deeds.” (Heb. 10:24)

Bizarrely, the closer some relationships are, the more permissive they can become; and our passion to do what is right is diluted.   As we feel able to relax completely with trusted friends, we can abuse the sense of ease by letting our behavior slip.   Gradually language that we would never use in public slips into the conversation and off-white humour that we know is inappropriate becomes part of the common currency of our friendship, because we feel able to let our hair down.   The friendship has now become one that gives permission (where we give each other a license to compromise) rather than providing exhortation (where we encourage each other towards character and excellence).

~Jeff Lucas, writing in Lucas on Life, devotional reading for Jan 20, 2005.

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