It was hammered into my newly regenerate brain. “Do not be deceived. ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.'” (1 Corinthians 15:33) It was helpful, really. I needed to separate from the influences of a few people who had the power to easily take me from my new path.
Sometimes, however, it has come to be just as true that whatever good company I am or whatever good company I am with at a time might just makes my friends and associates guilty by association. In our uncomfortable world, I tend to mingle my associations rather than segregate them. There are many reasons for this. Practically, I simply have no energy to have my associations in the never-the-twain-shall-meet boxes. I quit living like that back in the 90’s when my church at the time would not let an HIV+ man serve on the worship team because it would involve microphones. I determined that I would not be the excluder unless excluding was for the true protection of my friend or, obviously, the intermingling would be dangerous for anyone involved.
A few months ago I threw a little get together for a man who was home from a live-in treatment facility. It was a celebration of his growing freedom and his first longer leave. There are a few who care about him and we shared hamburgers. It was then I realized that his association with me tended to get him judged. It was assumed that he had particular struggles because of his association with me. It was assumed that the others who were invited were suspect to have similar struggles because of their associations with me.
It isn’t that the conclusions of the party-goers and others in the vicinity were right or wrong that disturbs me so much. What bugs the pieces out of me is that adults find themselves preferring to categorize other adults in this way. Good grief! Hasn’t life taught you anything? People are out there struggling with loneliness fear, isolation, addiction, singleness, widowhood, night shift jobs, caregivers, stay at home mothers or fathers, degree programs, social weakness, awkwardness, sickness and the like! It could happen to any of us at any time–life events can put us to the fringe of the action and we are powerless to overcome it on our own.
What is so cool about reaching out to the diverse world of people with some genuine care and friendship is that you are no longer alone. You make friends. You get to see people find freedom. People begin to overcome some of their quirks and behaviors and, in exchange, you will overcome some of yours. You become increasingly free of the need to judge the motive of others and to simply walk with some wisdom that people make really crappy choices and do some really crappy things and they still need love.
Consider the Savior! He certainly was accused for eating and drinking and healing on the Sabbath. He was scrutinized for spending time with the tax collectors and prostitutes. He lingered at the well talking to the Samaritan woman. He defended the woman caught in adultery. Some of his closest associates were tradesmen and he decided to use them to build his ministry though some of them were, likely, uneducated.
What will be the measure of what I do? Will it be to make others happy with me? Will it be to get affirmation from any side of any part of this? People are very changeable and it is likely that I will fall in and out of favor with any one person at any time. I’m pretty sure I’ll have those same struggles with you. I just wonder if we can live life a little more openly?
I was thinking about it on Sunday because the sermon suggested that our tendency to separate activities into categories might be misguided. Preacher Man suggested that we separate into 3 categories when, perhaps there might be only two. We tend to take our 168 hours a week (which everyone has, by the way) and create categories for those hours. Firstly, there is the category of the sacred in life. Into this we put church, service, devotional life & prayer. Secondly, we have the secular pursuits. Into this we put recreation, work, entertainment, non-church volunteerism, maintaining our household, etc. Finally, there are sinful pursuits which would perhaps include drunkenness, getting high, unblessed sex and the like. Preacher Man suggested that there are only two categories–sacred and sinful. The minute he said it, I knew he was right but that I had never really thought about it that way.
For the normal Christian life, ALL OF LIFE is our worship. Our work, our worship, our associations, our chores, our cooking, our outreach, our art, our entertainment…All…ALL are to be to the glory of God. If it is not, it is sin. It blew my mind to think on this anew.
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17)
“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'” (Matthew 25:35)