The time of youth is a difficult time — especially in the age in which we live. Ask any young person. There are many difficult problems he must confront. What must one’s life’s work be? To what degree may the youth go along with the entertainment presented about us? Must youth also walk according to those strict, and apparently foolish, requirements which parents often lay down? Finally, though not the least, how must the covenant youth go about choosing friends?
Very often, youth insist on facing these various problems alone. They expect, I suppose, that they are able to resolve them without guidance. Interference is resented. It is not unusual at all that pastors, teachers, and even parents become aware of a specific problem in the life of a particular youth only after the problem appears to have reached proportions of such greatness as to defy proper solution.
One great, and common, problem is the matter of choosing friends. This seems such a minor matter at first, that youth often give it little thought. It’s proper, then, that we sit down once again and ponder this question.
The time of youth is normally the time when one meets new people and makes new friends. Older people have their friendships already established. But the youth have many opportunities to establish new friendships. In school is one place where this is usually done. (For this reason, also, Christian parents desire that their children go to such schools where the seed of the covenant are trained.) When young people find work, often they find friends at the same time and place. And, of course, when the youth seek entertainment, the probability is that there also they will meet and make new friends too.
Many problems have arisen, and continue to arise, in the choice of friends. Those friends are not always of the best sort. Often, they have no relationship to the church at all. These must be termed children of the world. It seems so innocent, sometimes, to have friends among these — for, after all, this only involves some of youth’s activity during the week. Sometimes these friendships involve relationships between two of totally different denominations. Here too. the difference seems insignificant (don’t we believe in the “freedom of worship” of God?). Yet the belief, the confession, of another surely influences that which youth does and says. Probably most serious of all, friendships arise between those of opposite sex. A young boy meets and “falls in love” with a young girl. They may not have the same religious background, in fact, the one might have no religious background at all, but it seems to make no difference to them. They may be told of the innumerable times in the past that such a relationship ended on the “rocks”; they may be told of all the problems they will have to face — but it makes no difference. Their friendship is an established thing, and no one can break it.
The words of the prophet Amos ought to be an important guide for young people. Other passages of the Word of God speak in the same vein. Two cannot walk together except they be agreed. A measure of agreement is necessary between two in order that friendship can develop in the first place. If two young people have no common interests, friendship will not be established between the two either. But far more important than mere ordinary interests is the matter of spiritual agreement or oneness. If a proper and spiritual friendship is to be established, there must be spiritual unity. Light and darkness cannot agree together; Christ and Belial have no concord. This point of spiritual “agreement” is not merely a goal which is nice if it can be attained — but otherwise not very important. On the contrary, this is the principal point for a young person to remember when seeking friends — and particularly life’s partner. This very plainly means that friendship with those outside of the church is impossible. One may have to work with a person who makes no pretense of being a child of God: one may go to school with such; one may encounter him in his daily activities; but all this is far different than the establishment of friendship. Young people had better remember that such friendship is not merely inadvisable; it is very really impossible. The principle applies also to friendships established between two of differing church affiliations. The greater the difference, the more impossible friendship becomes. That should be well understood.
The reason is that friends (who supposedly agree together) must walk also together. Their walk involves their various activities. They seek entertainment together. They work together in their hobbies. They help one another in school work. Or, if that friendship matures into matrimony, two will raise and educate a family together: they will work as well as worship together. All their being is involved in the walk. There are two possible walks: of darkness and of the light. There is no neutrality.
The walk of the Christian (Christian young people too) is and must be the walk in that straight and narrow way leading to life. It is inconceivable (and contrary to Scripture) that anyone walk with you who himself will not walk that way. And this is true not only on Sunday when one must go to that church where he believes God’s Word is most purely proclaimed, but it is true every day of the week and in all of one’s activities.
In the limited space I have, I would offer some suggestions which I feel ought surely to be followed. Negatively, always avoid all improper friendships. One need not avoid speaking to one of the world, but the spiritual resolve ought always be there: I can never be friends with one of this world under present circumstances. That is true respecting casual friendships, but also as far as dating is concerned. Dates can easily lead to more serious friendship — therefore these may never be with such who are not in “agreement” with you. And further: break improper friendships before it is too late.
Positively, seek the advice of parents and pastors. They may seem “out of date,” but the fact is that they have had twenty or more years of experience, observation, and training than you. Be willing to be guided by their good advice.
Secondly, seek friendships (and dates) from those of your own church in-so-far as that is possible. But by all means make sure that all your friendships are only with those who profess to fear the Lord.
One word yet to young people who date. I repeat, dates can be only with those who fear God. At the same time, by all means before any serious consideration is made of marriage, young people ought to be very sure that they agree spiritually. This is not a matter which can be decided after marriage. Not merely must they agree on the “general principles” such as the matter of redemption through the cross, but they must be in agreement concerning which church most purely proclaims the truth of the Word. Marriage involves necessarily a “walk together” which is very, very close. Any disagreement on the basic matter of the truth of God’s Word makes this “walk together” difficult and almost impossible. Therefore, besides all of the trivia which are discussed on dates, God’s Word must also be discussed. Be sure that for the sake of dates or prospective marriage you do not compromise concerning the Word of God. Take your date to society meetings and above all, to catechism classes. And only after it becomes evident that he or she is in agreement with you theologically, begin discussing marriage plans. Remember always: how can two walk together except they be agreed?