It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Show me who a man’s friends are and I will tell you who he is”.
Another popular way of stating the same thing is, “You are only as good as the company you keep”.
The idea is very old: “Tell me with whom thou art found, and I will tell thee who thou art”.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
And – as early as 1591 in an Old English form it appears as, ‘if a man can be known as nothing else, then he may be known by his companions’.
Most of us have heard many times and in many variations, “you are judged by the company you keep.” This was also stated in a speech by President John Kennedy.
Actions do speak louder than words! All too true. And people look closely at who we associate with. Jesus lived what He taught. He showed, by those with whom He associated, He was compassionate to those in need. You see, mankind is broken. We need to be fixed. We have all strayed from the path – we are sinners. Jesus offered them, as He offers you and I, peace with God – redemption. We need to be brought back to the state from which we have fallen – as God originally created us. Jesus is THE WAY – the only Way. No one can get back to that position with God unless we believe on the work of Jesus as Savior. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. (John 14:6) His blood sacrifice paid the price for redemption.
Most adults who reject Jesus will tell you part of their problem with Him – if not all of their problem –is “the company He keeps,” the attitudes and/or actions of His “purported” followers. Throughout the ages, since the first century, there have been countless events and actions by people who claim them to be “for the sake of their Lord Jesus,” although those actions run completely counter to the example He Himself set. And, on a daily basis today you will encounter or hear about the actions of many who claim to be “Christ Followers,” yet whose lives paint a very different picture from the record of His life on earth.
“Jesus Christ is the center of everything, and the object of everything, and he that does not know Him knows nothing of nature and nothing of himself.” (Blaise Pascal)
Those pithy little sayings I quoted above are true of Jesus, but the point is backwards. You see, the basic fact is that Jesus is judged by the company He keeps, and rightly so. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) He spent His time on earth with those at the opposite end of the spectrum from the self-righteous religious leadership, the ones who were convinced they could work their way to a relationship with God. He drove the religious community crazy by eating with tax collectors, those greedy Roman collaborators, and by touching and healing lepers, the unclean and dying men and women of their land. He stood up for an adulteress caught in the act and saved her from a stoning. He was a “man of sorrows,” who wept for the people of Jerusalem whom, five days later, would scream “Crucify him.”
And where is He today. As the Son of God, Savior of mankind, He is with all who seek Him. With the drunk in the gutter of skid row who cries out for Him; with the child molester imprisoned for life who falls on his face seeking redemption; with the tribesman in the jungles of Africa who awakens to the Creator of all he sees; with the Islamic jihadist who is visited in a dream by the Spirit of Jesus and opens his heart to his Redeemer; with the communist rebel who persecutes Christians, finds a New Testament, reads it and opens His heart to the gospel; the young couple engaging in pre-marital sex, whose guilt is driving them to find why their physical relationship is so hollow. And on and on and on . . . He is with anyone, anywhere, who seeks Peace with God. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13). Christians in the Western cultures seem to have preconceived ideas of what He should look like and who He should associate with. We are embarrassed with some who call themselves by His name, yet aren’t cleaned up and dressed spiffy, the picture of worldly success. “The best way to see divine light is to put out thine own candle.” (Francis Quarles)
So, should Jesus be judged by the company He keeps? People fail all the time. Jesus is the very definition of a Redeemer, who loves mankind and gave His life to pay the price for their sin. He loves those who, in humility, claim Him as their Savior, submit to Him as their Master and want to fellowship with Him. It is an unfortunate reality that people will reach the end of their own efforts before they will finally reach out to Jesus. But even though we have the relationship with Him, Christians are still human and will sin (disobey God). His love looks beyond that – and He continues to “keep company with us.” For the redeemed – He will never leave us, He will never even turn His back on us. He is with us eternally.
We have God’s Word in the Bible and we have the Spirit of Christ to teach and guide us. “Beware of reasoning about God’s Word – obey it!” (Oswald Chambers)
Christian, if you are going to carry that name out into a lost, depraved and dying world, it would behoove you to get to know the life of this One for whom you owe your salvation, not by what men say but through the Bible – God’s revelation to us. Then, humbly follow His example.
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it is the only thing.” (Albert Schweitzer)