The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray.
Friendship is a very interesting part of the human life. We really need companionship and fellowship with others, but there is so much that can go wrong for us in this. This verse talks about one of those ways things can go wrong. If you aren’t careful in your friendships, you will be led astray. The point is to be careful who you are friends with. Of course this isn’t talking about who you are simply acquaintances with, but rather friends. The Hebrew word here for friends is one that implies exactly what we would think. A form of companionship, one that could be summed up as “pasture-mates.” So we get the idea that our friends are the people that we are milling about with.
Clearly this is true of when we are becoming friends with the people who are really the closest to us – that handful that you count as your true close friends. The thing that I’m wanting to bring out is a different vulnerability.
The internet allows us to pasture quite freely and without accountability with all sorts of people. We can stop in on all kinds of different subcultures, read up on what they are doing, learn a few things, leave a few comments, and press on. But the reality is that this is a kind of choosing friends. They may not be close to you, they may not be people you would even like in person, they may not be any of the things that you believe are important, but you are willingly pasturing with them. You are processing information with them. You are exchanging ideas, and exchanging values. And this is how it is possible to be led astray by someone that you never even knew. Chose your friends carefully.
When we spend time with people in real life, or virtually, we become like them. The internet has a unique trick, which is that we feel like it is abstract information rather than a personal exchange or relationship. Would you be comfortable at this person’s kitchen table looking at the outfits that they are telling you are cute and chic? Is this person a wise friend? Would it be wise for you to join this person’s little group of friends simply because you both are ticked off about the same small issue when she is actually New Age? Is this a wise friend? Would you really want to hear what this man thinks about what your hair should look like if you knew him in person? Is this a wise friend?
Some of my examples might seem stupid or uptight to you, but I am not talking about something that has never affected anyone. The reason so many women get mad about the make believe perfect housekeepers, or the food bloggers, or the people with perceived perfect marriages is that they have been out pasturing with them. They have been led astray somewhere and are angry about it. The reason so many women have broken fellowship with their local community of believers over things that you would not think were important is because they have been led astray. They have been pasturing with unwise friends. They have not asked themselves the very simple question of “Is this person wicked?”, followed by,”Should I be hanging out with them?”
Especially as we raise our children in this era of virtual life, it is critically important that we notice these things. We need to be asking the big questions first, not looking to see if we have the same taste in some minor area of life. We absorb a lot more than we know we do.
Note that this verse says that the righteous should chose his friends carefully. Apparently the righteous can be led astray by casual friendships. The righteous probably thought that they could easily strain the bad out of the good. But our lives are not that unconnected. We are the hot water and our friends are the tea. We can’t just strain out the chunks and go away unaffected.
Sometimes the righteous might think these are not worldview issues but just lifestyle issues: we share a common aesthetic; we agree about immunizations; we both like bad novels; we all hate cheese. Whatever. Be careful that you are not befriending someone who will lead you astray. And be careful that you know when you have begun pasturing with someone.