Do you do things you otherwise wouldn’t when you’re with certain people? Do you find yourself caving into pressure when you don’t really want to just to keep the peace or to make someone happy? God understands human nature, which is why he advises us multiple times in His word against going along with what is wrong or unwise.
“Therefore do not be partakers with them.” (Ephesians 5:7)
The company we keep, whether by choice or by birth, is a powerful motivator in our lives. Because it influences us to righteousness or sin, wisdom or foolishness, we must be ever cognizant of its effect. “Do not be deceived,” the Bible warns. “‘Evil company corrupts good habits.'”(1 Corinthians 15:33) The truth of the matter is that we tend to become like those we associate with.
This is why Psalm 1 famously admonishes, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. (Psalm 1:1) We are not to take the advice of the ungodly, spend time with them, or copy their sinful ways, so that we don’t get caught up in the same traps. But what if we can’t avoid association–what if this is a situation you can’t easily remove yourself from?
Many circumstances that seem unavoidable still have an out. First Corinthians 10:13 promises, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Many times, simply getting up and walking away is a way to avoid the situation. Traveling in a car is more difficult, but tuning out with earphones and iPods might be an option. Regardless of whether or not we can walk away, we are not to give in: “do not be partakers with them.”
Human nature wants to be part of a group, to belong, to identify with others. Yet when the only option is something either outright sinful or unadvisable, not going along is the action called for. We certainly cannot do wrong, but we must also not allow ourselves to become trapped into foolish habits that will threaten to pull us down later because we want to be liked now. So why do we sometimes go along, even though we really do know better?
I believe that there are times we go along because of cowardice. We don’t want to risk either making someone mad or unhappy with us, so we figure it’s no big deal and just do whatever we’re being urged to do. Yet there are times when God wants us to dig our heels in and say,”This far, and no further!” But what if you are afraid–afraid, perhaps, even for your life?
Jesus addressed this when He said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him [God] who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) As much as we fear someone hurting or killing us in this life, nothing anyone can physically do to us approaches the torment of eternal punishment and separation from God. So how serious is cowardice?
Revelation 21 paints an incredible picture of eternity with God: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth…And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away'” (Revelation 21:1-4) Yet verse 8 warns, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” As much as we might not like to accept it, there are some who will experience eternal punishment. Cowardice–being unwilling to say “no” to what is wrong–is very serious.
So the next time you are urged to do something you know is wrong or unwise–do as God says and “do not be partakers with them!”
Please give me the wisdom that comes from You. Help me to recognize the things that can trap me and hurt me and give me Your Divine courage to say no. In Jesus’ name, amen.