Guard Your Associations!
ALL God’s commands bear testimony to his love, wisdom and justice. What he commands is for our best, our highest and our most enduring welfare. He commands our doing certain things and forbids us certain pleasures only because he loves us and wants to see us happy. As he exclaimed regarding his ancient people Israel: “If only they would develop this heart of theirs to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, in order that it might go well with them and their sons to time indefinite!”—Deut. 5:29, NW.
Among the laws that God gave his ancient people for their own good were those relating to the guarding of their association. They were not to intermarry with pagans nor even to intermingle with them: “You must form no marriage alliance with them,” for they will surely cause you to “serve other gods, and Jehovah’s anger will indeed blaze against you and he will certainly annihilate you in a hurry.” And again, “They should not dwell in your land, that they may not cause you to sin against me.”—Deut. 7:3, 4; Ex. 23:33, NW.
But lacking faith in God and love for him the nation of Israel time and again violated these commands with disastrous results. Even their wisest king came to grief on this very score. In his old age he allowed his pagan wives to turn his heart away from his God Jehovah, so that he died unfaithful, an apostate.
The same holds true with Christians today. For our own good Jehovah commands that we guard our association. We are living in perilous times, likened unto the days of Noah and Lot. Being imperfect, weak and having an inherited bent toward sin, we are prone to succumb to the world’s flattery or to compromise because of fear of its opinion. That is why the apostle Paul warns: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33, NW.
As Christians we are counseled to renew our minds and to put on a new, Christlike personality. To the extent that we can we must, therefore, avoid associating with those who object to our having this change take place in us. “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct.” And, “because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you”; behind your back, if not in your presence.—1 Pet. 4:3, 4, NW.
For our spiritual welfare Jehovah explicitly commands us to marry “only in the Lord,” not to “become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” Why? “For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? . . . Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols?” Absolutely none whatever! Loyalty to our God and his organization will cause us to respect these commands.—1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14-16, NW.
While association is a basic need of young and old, it not being “good for the man to continue by himself,” we must be careful as to the kind of association we cultivate. Where shall we draw the line? No hard and fast rules can be given but, as already intimated, Jesus’ counsel would here apply: “Prove yourselves cautious as serpents.” So when in doubt, do without!—Gen. 2:18; Matt. 10:16, NW.
Paul’s wise counsel at Ephesians 5:10-12 (NW) should therefore be taken to heart especially by all Christians: “Keep or making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord; and quit sharing with them in the unfruitful works which belong to the darkness, but, rather, even be reproving them, for the things that take place in secret by them it is shameful even to relate.” This reproving can be done by words or merely by actions, by refusing to associate with them in their wrong course.
It is for our own good that God warns us to guard our association. Heeding his warning we shall avoid pitfalls and, instead, shall be building up one another in faith and love. Thereby we shall be helped to keep integrity until the time we enter the new world, a world now so near at hand, in which we shall not need to guard our association, for then everyone that breathes will be praising Jehovah and that ever more perfectly. But until then, “do not be misled.” Remember, “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”