The relationships of the young people ought to be a great concern to the church. Certainly, Christian parents ought to be deeply concerned with whom their young people associate. This ought also to be a matter of concern to the office bearers of the church. And it ought to be a matter of concern to the young people themselves.
The relationships of the young people ought to be a matter of concern to the church because God Himself is concerned about the friendships of Christian young people. This belongs to the antithetical life to which God calls every young person.
Again and again the Bible warns against relationships with unbelievers and admonishes the believing young person not to make friends with the young people of this world. James writes in James 4:4 that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God; whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” In II Cor. 6:14, 15 the Apostle Paul exhorts believers, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord (that is, ‘friendship’) hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
In the Book of Proverbs, Solomon gives various warnings against friendship with unbelievers. In Prov. 13:20 he warns that “. . . a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” And in Prov. 28:7 he says that “. . . he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.” One very strong warning on this subject is found in Proverbs 1:10-19. I would suggest that you take the time to read this passage. This is a significant passage because it stands at the head of the whole rest of the Book of Proverbs. That indicates certainly the importance of this matter of the relationships of the young people. This is the first thing the wise father discusses with his son. But this also indicates the connection between the friendships of the young people and every other aspect of the holy, obedient life to which they are called. From a certain point of view, everything else that the father will teach his son depends on his first of all heeding the warning not to be friends with the world. All the good instruction of a faithful father will fall to the ground if his son (daughter) becomes a companion of the fools of this world.
THE WARNING AGAINST FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD
Proverbs 1:10-19 deals with friendship. In verses 10, 11 we read, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, “Come with us …” In verse 14 these sinners say, “Cast in thy lot among us: let us all have one purse.” And in verse 15 the wise father warns, “My son, walk not thou in the way with them: refrain thy foot from their path.” Going with sinners, walking with them in the way is being friends with them.
The passage is a warning against friendship with unbelievers. In the passage these unbelievers are described as murderers and robbers. They lay wait for blood, vs. 11. They fill their houses with spoil that they have violently taken, vs. 13. They are greedy for gain, vs. 19.
We ought not to misunderstand the application of the passage. We ought not to suppose that this believing father is ONLY forbidding friendship on the part of his son with out-and-out murderers and thieves. This passage, in fact, applies to ALL friendship with unbelievers, unbelievers of every stripe and description. For when it comes down to it, every unbeliever is a thief and a murderer. The lust that drives the thief and the murderer is essentially the same lust that burns in the heart of every wicked man. It is the lust that puts self and self’s interests at the center of one’s life. It is the lust that is ready to destroy anyone and anything that gets in the way of self. It is the lust for the pleasures and treasures of this life that gratify self. It is the lust for the glorification of self, and a refusal to live for the glory of God.
With unbelievers, now, ALL unbelievers’ fellowship is forbidden: “My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path,” vs. 15.
This is a timely warning. For the danger is real that young people do this. This is always a temptation to the young people. This danger arises from the unavoidable contact that the young people of the church have with the young people of this world. The unbeliever may be a close relative. Or he may be a neighbor. Or he may be a fellow-worker.
There is a danger here for the young people who go off to college. There is not only the danger of imbibing bad instruction, but there is also the danger of the influence of bad acquaintances. For this reason, the young people who go to college ought to go to a college located in the vicinity of one of our churches.
There is a danger of friendships with unbelievers to those young people who leave home to live in some apartment by themselves or with other young people. In many instances this leads to the establishment of undesirable relationships and to the influence of evil friends. Outside of the parental home and away from the parental influence, they fall victim to the influence of the children of this world.
Included in the warning against friendship with unbelievers is the warning that the young people stay clear of the places where the young people of this world ’hang out’: the bars, the pool halls, the dance floors, the movie theaters, the wild parties.
Certainly included in this warning – so obvious it ought not even be needed to be stated – is the prohibition of dating the young people of this world. Dating is friendship, and the young people of the church may not be friends with the world. Dating is also preliminary to marriage, and no Christian young person may marry an unbeliever.
THE REASONS WHY FRIENDSHIP WITH UNBELIEVERS IS FORBIDDEN
There are good, solid reasons why the young people of the church are to be warned against friendship with unbelievers. There are reasons why every Christian young person ought to be concerned about his personal relationships. What are these reasons?
First, the consequences of friendship with unbelievers are disastrous for the Christian young person, disastrous in nearly every instance. Inevitably there is a corrupting of the believer, the influence over him of the bad example of the unbeliever. The believer doesn’t influence the unbeliever, but the unbeliever invariably influences the believer. By the unbeliever he is led away from the Word of God, the commandments of God, and the church of God. This is the goal of the unbeliever. This is certainly the goal of the Devil who stands behind the unbeliever.
History and experience bear out the truth of this. Think of the consequences for the children of Israel on account of their making friendships with the ungodly Canaanites. Think of the result in the life of a believer like Samson of his establishing friendship with an ungodly Philistine woman. Think of the result for Solomon of his marrying heathen wives: they led him away from the true worship of God.
Secondly, the young people of the church are warned against friendships with unbelievers because such friendship expose them to the Judgment of God. God forbids friendship with unbelievers, and God punishes those who establish friendship with unbelievers. It is not just your parents, your pastor, and the church who forbid such friendships. But it is God Himself Who forbids friendship with unbelievers.
Those who make friends with unbelievers expose themselves to the same judgment as those unbelievers with whom they make friends. Solomon says in Prov. 1:18, “And they lay wait for their own blood: they lurk privily for their own lives.” James says in James 4:4 that whoever makes himself a friend of the world by that very fact shows himself to be an enemy of God. Woe to that man who is God’s enemy!
Thirdly, the believer is warned against friendship with unbelievers because when he does this he compromises his witness to the unbeliever. That the believer is not to make friends with the unbeliever does not mean that he has no calling with respect to the unbeliever. He does. That calling is to witness to him, which witness God may use to bring the unbeliever to repentance and faith.
But by making friends with the unbeliever, the child of God compromises his witness. How can he witness against murder when he is a companion of murderers? How can he witness against worldliness when he is a companion of thieves? How can he witness against drunkenness when he is a companion of drunkards? How can he witness against fornication when he is a companion of fornicators?
THE POSITIVE CALLING
In this warning against friendship with unbelievers there is an implied calling. If the young people are to avoid friendship with unbelievers, the calling is implied: “Be friends and make friends with fellow believers!”
As much as the Word of God admonishes us against friendship with the children of this world, it calls us to friendship with God’s people. The alternative to friendship with the world is not no friends at all. But the alternative is friendship with the children of God.
The Scriptures lay this calling before us both by example and express commandment. Think of the friendship between David and Jonathan. In one place David describes his love for his friend Jonathan as a love surpassing even the love of a woman. Think of the friendship between Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To what an extent did God use that friendship to sustain these young men in the midst of the temptations of Babylon. Solomon writes in Prov. 18:24, there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. The Psalmist writes in Ps. 119:63, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts.”
This is a practical calling for the young people of the church. The young people of the church must seek one another’s friendship. They ought to establish and cultivate mutual friendship.
FRIENDSHIP AT WHAT COST?
Although friendship is good and even necessary, it may come to it that for God’s sake the believer must forego friendship, or even experience rejection at the hands of his friends. This was David’s experience. He laments in Ps. 38:11, “My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off.” In Ps. 80:18 he writes, “Lover and friend hath Thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.” Think of Job’s rejection at the hands of his friends. Or think of our Lord’s treatment at the hands of His friends: one betrayed Him, another denied Him, and the rest forsook Him and fled.
It may come to it that for the sake of the kingdom of God, you are required to give up certain friendships. Then, for the sake of friendship with God, which is dearer than life itself, you must let go the friendship of men.
The believing child of God heeds this warning against friendship with unbelievers. Solomon writes in Prov. 1:17, “Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.” Even in an animal the sight of danger leads to the avoiding of it. Instinct directs the bird to avoid the net that has been spread in her sight. The Christian young person ought to be as ready to avoid the dangers of friendship with unbelievers.
There is a saying that goes like this: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” That is a true saying. The prophet asks the rhetorical question in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” That is what friends do, friends walk together. We could paraphrase the word of the prophet, “Can two people be friends, if they are not agreed?” The obvious answer is: “No!”
The foundation on which true friendship is built is the foundation of agreement, agreement in belief of God, agreement in obedience to God, agreement in the worship of God. May this be the foundation of the friendships of our young people!