We’ve addressed this before, but I want to revisit the importance of “friends” in a child’s life. Children are influenced powerfully by other children. The influence becomes stronger as children enter adolescence and the teen years. They begin to question adult standards and the guidance of their parents, teachers and other adult authority in their lives. That questioning leads many children to grow closer to children their own age or a little older. They often do what their friends suggest rather than their parent’s advice or direct orders. It’s called “peer pressure.”
Many teenagers tell counselors they feel closer to their friends than they do to their parents. Arguments between children and their parents often increase during these years and it can be a difficult time for families. God understands the power of human influence and gives Christians clear direction about how to deal with it.
Wisdom About Friends
- The first lesson in selecting friends is to never allow them to come between you and your walk with God. You will never have a more important friendship than the one you have with God through Jesus Christ His Son. A true friend will want you to have the deepest, best relationship possible with God. They will support you and encourage you in your walk with God. They will not be a hinderance in your Christian growth. Instead, they will stimulate your growth and look out for your spiritual health.
God wants us to love Him, worship Him and obey Him. He is so serious about this point that He gave Israel strict instructions about what to do if a family member or even their closest friend tried to turn them away from their relationship with God.
“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.” Deuteronomy 13:6-11
The people of Israel often did not obey God and they were led away by friends and even family members to serve other gods. It was Israel’s downfall many times through centuries of history. It is the downfall of many people today. Though we wouldn’t stone people today for leading our children away from worshipping God, we understand the seriousness of this offense and should do everything we can to protect children and teens from these spiritual, emotional and physical dangers.
Friendship with God and friendship with the world are two drastically opposing forces. Israel had a choice to make thousands of years ago and we have a similar choice to make today. Jesus explained it clearly to His disciples.
“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15:8-19
Most of Christ’s disciples chose to follow Him and bear spiritual fruit, but one chose the world (Judas) and we know what kind of friend he was (traitor) and what kind of fruit he bore (bad). Children should be careful as they select friends. If they can’t see the dangers, their parents and teachers should point them out as clearly as possible.
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:1-4
We’ll look at the second lesson about choosing friends in the next part of Teaching Wisdom to Our Children.