When It’s Good to Be Together
Should truth be compromised to maintain the approval of men? How can you check your associations?
EVERY normal person enjoys companionship. While not all like the noise and commotion of crowds, they are happy to have the communion of affable and cheerful friends. How good it is to be in the company of a group with which you feel at ease, a circle in which you can perhaps find relaxation from the weightier activities and problems of daily life!
No matter where you go you will find the evidences of this strong urge to be together. Humans, like sheep in this respect, tend to flock together. Think of all the societies and guilds, the clubs and associations in which people are drawn together by common interests or in search of the warmth of friendship!
Picnics in the country or by the seashore, campfire chats in the brisk fall evenings, songfests around a piano, all of these are particularly memorable occasions, chiefly because of the joyous friendly togetherness. Even when groups go to see sports events or to hear a musical program, a definite source of pleasure is the company of kindred minds. Attend one of these functions alone, and right away you find there is not the same degree of pleasure. We need one another and we seek one another’s association because of a desire that is inborn.
WHEN TOGETHERNESS IS NOT GOOD
In spite of the joys of association, however, it is good to keep in mind that togetherness does not always work out beneficially. There are companionships that can degrade, and others that can elevate. There are those who bring out the worst in you, and those who bring out the best. How vital, then, to have the ability to distinguish one from the other, and the strength necessary to forsake the bad and cling to the good!
Consider, as an example, the situation in early human history when the tribes of earth gathered together on the plains of Shinar. A grandiose scheme was proposed, its motive quite plausible. They would build a great city with a lofty tower so as to hold men together under a central authority. But God’s will was for the people to spread abroad over the earth. Jehovah’s displeasure at their association became evident when he forced the abandonment of their scheme by confusing their language.—Gen. 11:1-9.
Another association disapproved by God came to view years later when the Israelites entered the land promised to their forefathers. God warned them to avoid any kind of association with the inhabitants of the land. Why? Because he had already doomed the Canaanites to destruction because of their filthy corruptions, and any association with them would have had the effect of turning Israel from the worship of the true God.—Ex. 34:12; Deut. 7:1-5.
What attitude toward togetherness, even when advanced under a plea for unity and peaceful coexistence, did Jesus Christ and his apostles manifest? Said the apostle Paul: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what sharing do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14, 15) The apostle well knew that Jesus had always shunned the companionship of hypocrites, associating rather with humble folk who yearned after righteousness.
PRESENT-DAY DANGERS OF TOGETHERNESS
As in the past so today the cry all too often is for unity without regard to the motive or the objective—peace at any price. ‘Come and be one of us regardless of what you believe, as long as you keep your beliefs to yourself,’ is frequently the alluring invitation. But whether it is a religious association or simply a small social group, you do well first to investigate their thinking and their objectives.
It so often turns out that a group is dominated by a few who lack respect for God and his written Word. In their circle the open expression of your Bible-based beliefs will be frowned upon. They will tell you that religious discussion divides people instead of uniting them. Yet the same group may be heard hotly discussing some controversial political point. Can it be that their real fear is that discussion of God’s Word may bring their habits and practices into judgment?
A definite danger in such association is that you may incur guilt by silence. When the time arrives for open discussion and some of the members lie about God and his Word and speak blasphemously, it takes a person of strong faith to speak out in support of truth. Usually the timorous sort just keep quiet to avoid a collision of ideas and the risk of losing the esteem of associates. Of course, there is “a time to keep quiet and a time to speak,” but we cannot consistently keep quiet if we would avoid being classified with liars and blasphemers.—Eccl. 3:7.
By reason of shunning selfish and godless associates King David of the tribe of Judah could approach his God confidently in prayer, saying: “I have not sat with men of untruth; and with those who hide what they are I do not come in. I have hated the congregation of evildoers, and with the wicked ones I do not sit.” (Ps. 26:4, 5) “Those who hide what they are” surely includes those who discourage any and all Bible discussion for fear that their taking a clear stand on some principle may cost them “friends” or bring upon them responsibility to act in harmony with their words.
Even if you find yourself in association with persons who are law-abiding, but who have little faith in God and his Word, their influence could prove to be detrimental. You may find yourself gradually deteriorating to the point where you have more concern about man’s approval than you have about God’s. Nor can you expect to bring about the reformation of such a group. Is it not more likely that their godless attitudes will rub off on you? The apostle Paul perceived this danger and sounded the warning: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
SEEKING HAPPINESS IN RIGHT ASSOCIATION
Divine wisdom informs us that “a true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” (Prov. 17:17) It is always delightful to be together with associates of this kind, for they will honor your Bible-founded beliefs and, should you incur persecution for your faith, they are always ready to support and sustain you. They are not ashamed to own you as their brother in the day of distress.
There is only one place to gain such strong and unbreakable friendship, and that is in the congregation of God’s true witnesses. Among them there is no aversion to speaking the truth and discussing God’s Word and its principles. When adversity comes upon you by reason of your adhering to what is right, they rally to your support and encouragement. Regular association with them at one or more of their weekly gatherings in the Kingdom Hall provides the opportunity for you to build up strong ties of friendship with people who love and honor the Creator.
Of course, there are responsibilities that attach to people who associate together in love for God and righteousness. They cannot be like careless, godless people who must continually seek some new thrill or way to pass the time. No, rather, a worthwhile association leads to worthwhile activities. And in a Christian society wherein people truly bear one another’s burdens you soon come to appreciate that serving God in a responsible manner is not something burdensome. It is, in fact, a pleasure.
WITH WHOM WILL YOU ASSOCIATE?
Naturally each one must make his own decision as to companionships. But the wise person will give heed to God’s loving counsel when He warns about godless and self-willed ones: “Do not go in the way with them.” Again he reminds us: “He that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Prov. 1:15; 13:20) Through Moses also God expressed his thinking on this matter when he ruled: “You must not follow after the crowd for evil ends; and you must not testify over a controversy so as to turn aside with the crowd in order to pervert justice.” (Ex. 23:2) Jehovah looks with detestation upon those who go along unprotestingly with a crowd whose thoughts and actions are at variance with his principles.
Prophesying about these very days in which we live, critical times in which selfish, lawless elements would be influencing the whole of human society to its detriment, the apostle Paul included in his list of wrongdoers those who are “blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful,” those who are “without love of goodness,” those who are “headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,” and then he solemnly exhorts: “From these turn away.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) In these “last days” of this wicked system of things it is urgent for each Christian to heed that counsel and restrict his companionship to those who love God and who love what is right. Those who follow this course will never be disappointed in their friendships. They will be able to say from the heart, ‘It’s good to be together.’