After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. (NIV)
Jesus sat among the teachers. With whom do you sit? Jesus was spending entire days sitting at the feet of the teachers of the law. And He was educated. His soul was filled with the truths of the Word. He was matured and transformed through this process. He placed Himself in a circle of teachers and learners of the world and He learned and became a teacher. Isn’t it something how the company we keep determines so much about our direction in life.
We are talking about discipleship and becoming like Christ by doing the things that Christ did. One thing He did we see from an early age was to surround Himself with others studying, meditating, discussing, and applying the Scriptures to their daily life. The Bible is clear to warn us about the circles we place ourselves in. The company we keep makes a difference.
Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm. (NIV)
Why does the companion of fools suffer harm? Because they act like those that they have surrounded themselves with. Our design as human beings is to crave community. We want to feel as if we fit, like we belong. We look for people with whom we can connect and belong. Godly application of this divine design within us will build strong bonds with other followers of Christ so that we support them in their time of need, and they do the same for us. But when sin corrupts this divine design, we seek approval and belonging from people who have no desire to follow God.
The most difficult part of this design is that we are seeking to belong and be part of a group of friends way before we have the emotional maturity to walk away from these people if they are having a negative influence on us. Why do young kids join gangs and stay even when they know it is a dangerous existence? They do it because of our inherent desire to belong. Belonging is a human need higher than morality. All the time, we will forfeit morality to belong.
This makes the place of parents guiding their children into the right circles of friends very important. When children leave the home, they will not always find Jesus-following kids who accept them and want them to be part of their group. If they get connected to the wrong crowd, the importance of that acceptance will lead them down the wrong road because acceptance and belonging is a higher priority than morality in our sinful state. The Bible says, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Another translation says it like this: “Bad company ruins good morals” (ESV).
This phenomenon doesn’t change just because we get older. We want to belong. But as adults, we must discipline ourselves to make morals higher than belonging. This discipline gives us the emotional strength to leave relationships when they become toxic. But we must go even further than leaving bad circles and seek out strong circles. What kind of people did Jesus surround Himself with from an early age? He sat among the teachers and learners.
Whatever we do each day will determine what we will become, but what we do each day is determined by the company we keep. If you want to be an overcomer of all the devil throws at you, you must place yourself among those who habitually seek a deeper understanding of God. Some groups we cannot choose. We cannot choose our parents. We cannot choose our siblings. We cannot always choose our co-workers. We cannot always choose those around us. But when we find ourselves surrounded by people whose lifestyles seek to know more of the world than God, we need to find another group to be our refuge from the harmful circles we can’t control. This is why finding a small group of people, seekers of God is so vital to be able to live of life of victory.
Here at CrossRoads, we have LifeLines for this very purpose. Whether you join a group officially designated by the church is not essential, though it is a very positive part of the church that helps you find and remain on the right path in life. Call it a Bible study group, a prayer circle, a gathering of Christ-friends. The name is not important. What’s important is to make absolutely certain you have surrounded yourself with learners and teachers of the Word of God.
The righteous choose their friends carefully,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (NIV)