It is better to walk alone than in an inner circle of unbelievers.
We all live in community, but do we understand the nature of community? In every community we find circles within circles within circles. We may well know several hundred people by name, office, or function, but we have genuine relationships with a much smaller number. For the more gregarious among us, that smaller number may be around a hundred, but for most of us it is better measured at a dozen, or at most dozens. Inside that circle another circle forms with folk who are closer to us that many members of our family. Some favored few may have a dozen such friendships, but most of us can count such friendships on the fingers of one hand. Inside that tiny circle, we find those with whom we are genuinely yoked – that is, our lives and functions depend on those chosen few. Even if we are separated by years and miles, we are always forming our plans and gauging our level of success on the advice and input from those friends.
That inner circle is the measure of us – of our faith, our worth, even our essential humanity. Whether we believe it or not – whether we want it or not – our lives begin to take on the shape and flavor of those in that inner circle. We bond, merging into each other in our thought patterns, linguistic patterns, and behavior patterns. As daunting as that is, our relationship begins to bear witness to the truth that “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) We notice the circle taking on the speech, thought and behavior patterns of the lowest moral ground.
As Christians, we know that we are called to share our faith in community. That means that we will – we must – associate with sinners so we can shine the light of faith into their line of sight. We interact with them, we are kind to them, responsive to their needs and compassionate in their suffering. That is both faithful and honorable. But if they become our inner circle, we will sink further and further into the yawning abyss of their behavioral chasm, losing our connection with the moral excellence to which Christ calls us.
We have heard all our lives that we should choose our spouses carefully, marrying someone who holds to the faith we cherish. We know that we should lead our family well, pass the hope along to the next generation, but we forget – God help us – we forget that we must choose our inner circle with the same level of care. If we fail at that, we place all our previous care in peril. Pulled down in the gravitational field of our close friendships, we drag our families with us.
Friends, please listen. So much is at stake. Love the world – reach with all your heart to rescue the perishing – but do not become the reason your precious family suffers, or even perishes. Guard your inner circle, and you will guard your heart. I said it once already, but now I will say it again: it is better to walk alone than in an inner circle of unbelievers.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,Paul to the gathered church in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NASB 1995
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”