Previously when we were in a church with separate Sunday School and children’s activities, we had to limit the interaction of our children with others due to the poor example set by the other children. I know that is mighty judgmental of us and we should be “ashamed” for putting what is best for our children above other children, blah, blah, blah…. I’ve heard the arguments all before.
I have also been told that we should be more willing to have our children socialize in the loose children’s groups such as can be found in many churches. You know the average class of one teacher and 10 plus students of varying backgrounds and family life. We’ve been told “That these children need to be around obedient children so they can set a good example for them.” That sounds well and good except that is not how life works. It actually works in reverse, the obedient children learn from the more disobedient children more often than not.
Now don’t get me wrong, believe me I know how truly disobedient and sinfully selfish my children are. We work on that daily. But in the overall scheme they are more obedient than the average child even though we have a long way to go. This also doesn’t mean my children can only be around “perfect” children – like those actually exist! But the goal is for a parent to be available to supervise the children’s interaction with others so that problems can be dealt with immediately. If you know my children you would realize they aren’t lacking for socialization nor are they shy and withdrawn. But I do strive to supervise their interactions with others especially foolish children.
I like the warning J.C. Ryle gives young men about friends. We as parents need to heed whom we allow our children to befriend.
Never make an intimate friend of anyone who is not a friend of God.
Understand me, I do not speak of acquaintances. I do not mean that you ought to have nothing to do with anyone but true Christians. To take such a line is neither possible nor desirable in this world. Christianity requires no man to be discourteous.
But I do advise you to be very careful in your choice of friends. Do not open all your heart to a man merely because he is clever, agreeable, good-natured, and kind. These things are all very well in their way, but they are not everything. Never be satisfied with the friendship of any one who will not be useful to your soul.
Believe me, the importance of this advice cannot be overrated. There is no telling the harm that is done by associating with godless companions and friends. The devil has few better helps in ruining a man’s soul. Grant him this help, and he cares little for all the armor with which you may be armed against him. Good education, early habits of morality, sermons, books, all, he knows well, will avail you little, if you will only cling to ungodly friends. You may resist many open temptations, refuse many plain snares; but once you take up a bad companion, and he is content. That awful chapter which describes Amnon’s wicked conduct about Tamar, almost begins with these words, “Now Amnon had a friend, a very shrewd man” (2 Samuel 13:3).
You must remember, we are all creatures of imitation: precept may teach us, but it is example that draws us. There is that in us all, that we are always disposed to catch the ways of those with whom we live; and the more we like them, the stronger does the disposition grow. Without our being aware of it, they influence our tastes and opinions; we gradually give up what they dislike, and take up what they like, in order to become closer friends with them. And, worst of all, we catch their ways in things that are wrong far quicker than in things that are right. Health, unhappily, is not contagious, but disease is. It is far more easy to catch a chill than to impart a warmth; and to make each other’s religion dwindle away, than grow and prosper.
Young men, I ask you to take these things to heart. Before you let any one become your constant companion, before you get into the habit of telling him everything, and going to him with all your troubles and all your pleasures–before you do this, just think of what I have been saying; ask yourself, “Will this be a useful friendship to me or not?”
“Bad company” does indeed “corrupt good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). I wish that text were written in the hearts of all young men. Good friends are among our greatest blessings; they may keep us away from much evil, remind us of our course, speak an appropriate word at the right time, draw us upward, and draw us on. But a bad friend is a burden, a weight continually dragging, us down, and chaining us to earth. Keep company with an unsaved man, and it is more than probable you will in the end become like him. That is the general consequence of all such friendships. The good go down to the bad, and the bad do not come up to the good. The world’s proverb is only too correct: “Clothes and company tell true tales about character.” “Show me who a man lives with and I will show you what he is.”
I dwell upon this point, because it has more to do with your prospects in life than first appears. If you ever marry, it is more than probable you will choose a wife from among your circle of friends or their acquaintances. If Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram had not formed a friendship with Ahab’s family, he would most likely not have married Ahab’s daughter. And who can estimate the importance of a right choice in marriage? It is a step which, according, to the old saying, “either makes a man or ruins him.” Your happiness in both lives may depend on it. Your wife must either help your soul or harm it. She will either fan the flame of Christianity in your heart, or throw cold water upon it, and make it burn low. She will either be, wings or handcuffs, an encouragement or an hindrance to your Christianity, according to her character. He that finds a good wife does indeed “finds a good thing;” so if you have the desire to find one, be very careful how you choose your friends.
Do you ask me what kind of friends you should choose? Choose friends who will benefit your soul, friends whom you can really respect, friends whom you would like to have near you on your deathbed, friends who love the Bible, and are not afraid to speak to you about it, friends that you would not be ashamed of having at the coming of Christ, and the day of judgment. Follow the example that David sets for you: he says, “I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts” (Psalm 119:63). Remember the words of Solomon: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). But depend on it, bad company in this life, is the sure way to procure worse company in the life to come.
J.C. Ryle – Thoughts for Young Men