“Don’t hang around with the wrong people…” Have you heard that? What do you understand by it?
I’ve been hearing that a lot from motivational speakers… To them, the wrong people are those who are undisciplined, unfocused, negative… People who do not think like the special ones – which you are meant to be – and will never be successful in life. You need to surround yourself, they say, with the right people… People who are smarter than you, who are where you want to be…
But it always makes me wonder, don’t these right people know better than to hang around people like you, and aren’t they also trying to hang out with people with equal or greater success than they? Are they not likely to see you as the wrong people? How do you get in with the right people?
It’s especially baffling to me when I hear this from religious leaders… To them, the wrong people are those steeped in sin and addiction, those who do not believe in God nor have respect for faith or religion… And honestly, there is some biblical basis for this teaching…
“If you walk with fools, you will become one…” “Iron sharpens irons…” “Can two walk together unless they agree?”
But, Jesus did something incredible when He walked on the Earth. The Bible tells us that He walked with sinners… He was accused of hanging around prostitutes, tax collectors (known to be deceitful), gluttons, and drunkards. In fact, they accused Him of being a glutton and a drunkard because He was constantly feasting… At least it seemed that way.
But I guess, that’s Jesus. He was perfect and couldn’t be tainted or misled. He had a specific purpose for spending time with these unfortunate people. He did say He came for the sick…
But then again, He called us to follow in His steps and minister to sinners, heal the sick, and comfort the brokenhearted… So, truthfully, we can’t obey Him while avoiding the wrong people… Or can we?
What really bugs me about the expression ‘the wrong people’ is that at some time or the other, we have been the wrong people to some people… We might even still be the wrong people. But even the wrong people need the right influence. Even the wrong people have hope in Jesus… He loves them just as much as He loves us… And maybe He wants us to be there for them, so that their lives will be transformed by our love…
I can imagine that it would be hard to love someone you think is a wrong person. Yet, even our enemies are worthy of our love…according to Jesus. And though we may reach out to people who are not where we are, who may not see things as we do, we do not abide in their presence. We love them without being intimate with them. That would be unwise. We need to nourish ourselves by spending time with others like ourselves and others who inspire us, so that we can be a light to those who aspire to where we are… It’s about our priorities; balancing our personal growth and our ministry.
So, for me, the expression, ‘the wrong people’ is wrong. There are no wrong people where God is concerned. There are wrong spaces, wrong places, wrong times, wrong influences, wrong decisions, wrong actions… But wrong people? They would have to be irredeemable people, and I don’t believe God created any such person.
But that’s just me. What do you think?
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