Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Proverbs 12:26 --- The Most Precious Thing in the World

Proverbs 12:26    
The righteous chooses his friends carefully,
   but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

C. S. Lewis astutely observed, "Friendship can be a school of virtue, but also a school of vice."[1]  This is one reason why "the righteous chooses his friends carefully."  As the apostle Paul warned us, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals'" (1 Corinthians 15:33).
A British monk named Aelred wrote a book on friendship in the twelfth century.  Aelred divides friendship into three classes.  First, carnal friendship, which "is based on the shared pursuit of pleasure."[2]  This shared pursuit could be anything from chasing a little white ball to chasing women, or I suppose, men.  Second, Aelred teaches there is worldly friendship.  This kind of friendship "is based on mutual advantage."[3]  Examples here might be, the mutually advantageous relationship between a golfer and his caddy, to keep the golf imagery alive, or a man and his mistress, to keep the sexual imagery alive.  Third, Aelred points to spiritual friendship.  This is based on "a mutual commitment to follow Jesus Christ."[4]

C. S. Lewis is right when he says that friendship starts when people find and share a common interest or passion.  "It [friendship] is found when we discover those travelling the same road as us, and decide to walk together."[5]  While there is nothing necessarily wrong with carnal or worldly friendship, especially when it relates to golf (my own biases may be showing through!) rather than prurient interests, the deepest friendship is spiritual friendship.  As Vaughan Roberts writes:

"Christians have the ultimate common passion and shared goal, which encompasses the whole of life.  We have been called, as brothers and sisters, to belong to Christ's family, as we travel along the way of the cross throughout our lives, with our eyes fixed on the destination of the new creation to come, which Christ will introduce when he returns."[6]

The righteous want their deepest and most intimate friends to be those who share a common faith with us.  While it is fine to have friends with whom we share a love for stamp collecting or passing our classes together in school, as believers our deepest friendships will be with other believers.  For with such people we are on the same path, under the same cross, following the same Lord we trust and love, to the same glorious destination.  These are our true brothers and sisters, for as Jesus taught us, "whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother" (Mark 3:35).  Among these, our brothers and sisters in Christ, will come our deepest friendships.

Jesus is our model for choosing friends carefully.  While he was certainly the friend of all sinners, nevertheless, he sought a deeper friendship with the disciples who followed him on earth, a still deeper friendship with the twelve, and the deepest of friendship with the three: Peter, James, and John.  

And so, "the righteous chooses his friends carefully" based on a common faith, a common walk, a common love, and a common goal.  But, sadly, no such consideration is in the heart and mind of the wicked.  The wicked person's way is the antithesis of the righteous.  The wicked has no fear of the Lord.  His faith is in himself.  The wicked do not walk in the way of the Lord, but follow the path of their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).  The wicked have no love for the Lord, and this lack of love is the very thing that sends them to a different destination than the righteous.  For as the Spirit warns us, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed" (1 Corinthians 16:22).

Let us choose our friends carefully in the Lord.  Let us try to imitate our Lord in befriending all sinners who cross our path.  But, most of all, let us cultivate the friendship of all friendships, our friendship with our heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.  This is the friendship which is the most precious thing in all of this world.  We could ask for no greater gift than this, and yet it is a gift freely given, because God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, who gave himself freely for us, offering his body on the cross.  Let us cherish such a friendship, which was made with such a price.


[1] Quoted by Vaughan Roberts in True Friendship: Walking Shoulder to Shoulder, 39.
[2] Ibid., 20.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., 21.

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