Many parents have advised, in some cases instructed, their children to not associate with certain kids at school or in the neighborhood. Their counsel had nothing to do with prejudice. Rather, from their perspective of experience and wisdom that comes with having lived life longer than their children, they saw serious warning signals in the lives and/or behavior of those other kids. Out of love for their children and trying to live up to their responsibility as parents, they took this step to protect their children from potentially dangerous associations. Associations matter!
The apostle Paul spoke to this reality when he warned, “Do not be deceived: evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33). This warning conveys godly wisdom. People with whom we associate can have a serious impact upon our lives, for good or evil. Associations matter!
Many passages of scripture warn Christians about their associations. Besides the general instruction noted above, specific warning is given to not keep company with Christians who are living in sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5:9-11). Paul instructed the Thessalonians to not keep company with a member who did not obey Paul’s teachings in that letter (2 Thess. 3:14). There are times when a congregation is supposed to not associate with a Christian who is divisive (Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:9-11).
An interesting lesson along this line can be gleaned from the account of the visit of Paul and Silas to Philippi (Acts 16:16-18). As Paul and his co-workers went about the city teaching the gospel, “a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination” followed them around, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” We read further, “this she did for many days.” Now this might sound like a good thing, one possessed by a demon actually promoting the message of the gospel. Paul, however, seemed to see it in a completely different light: “But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour.”
Why would Paul stop this girl from seemingly corroborating what he was teaching publicly? Stop and think… This girl was possessed by a demon, and many of the people in Philippi apparently knew it. Paul was a divinely appointed apostle of Jesus Christ. Christ would ultimately bruise the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). God the Son and the devil are not allies in their work. They are not friends; they are entirely opposed to each other. Jesus came to this world “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). The devil’s mission is to lead the people of this world to eternal destruction (1 Pet. 5:8). Christ and the devil cannot peacefully coexist in the life of an individual (Matt. 12:30). In fact, a person puts the devil out of his life by letting God in (Jas. 4:7-8).
The witness of the possessed girl was from a source whose purpose was opposed to the message that Paul taught. In addition, it is obvious that the practice of the girl following Paul around “for many days” was distracting both to Paul, trying to proclaim the message of salvation, and to the gospel message itself. For Paul to have allowed the girl, still under the influence of the devil, to continue to supposedly uphold the godly work that Paul was doing would have been to taint that work. Righteousness loses its luster when associated with evil. We need to realize that and be on guard in our personal lives. Associations matter…
Gary L. Hutchens