Bad Company Corrupts Good Character

We’ve talked so far about the Christian Left as distinct from the Political Left and the same applied to the Christian and Political Right.  There is a reason I’ve been using a train track analogy and today, we’ll explore a particular reason why train tracks accurately depict the interaction between people, God, and the culture.

In a speech to the Temple Israel of Hollywood, Dr. King is quoted as saying,

Oh, I know that there are still dark and difficult days ahead. Before we get there some more of us will have to get scarred up a bit. Before we reach that majestic land some more will be called bad names. Some will be called reds and communists simply because they believe in the brotherhood of man.

With acknowledgment that Dr. King was a man of God whose heart was in the right place and his own eyes were straight ahead, on track as a Christian with God Himself as the goal, the truth is that some in his company were called reds and communists…because they were. They proudly admitted they were.  Their preferences shouldn’t have rubbed off on Dr. King, but it is evidence of how easily Christians can be seen as getting off-track.  Perception–in the eyes of many people–becomes reality.

In a strange little discourse hidden in 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes what happens when Christians get off track.

1 Corinthians 15:30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I die every day– I mean that, brothers– just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God– I say this to your shame.

bad companyYou see, it’s really easy to find oneself so focused on the Christian Left rail or the Christian Right rail that we are completely unaware that those with totally different goals have swooped in alongside and thrown the switch on our train tracks until we are no longer headed toward God as a destination.

When the switch is thrown, we may not know this right away, but eventually we discover we have abandoned God in favor of different goals altogether.  Indeed, “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Follow the notion of Community—off the mainstream Christian ideal of community as the Church—and become so focused on the left rail instead of on God and where does it lead us?  It leads us aside to the Political Left for whom social justice, environmental stewardship, sexual freedom, and loving humanity, etc. become goals in themselves—apart from God.  It’s a human-centered idolatry that removes God from the center and corrupts good character.   Dr. Martin Luther King may have kept his own eyes on God at the end of the track, but those with whom he partnered carried a movement God was initially “in”—so far off-track—that civil rights and issues of fairness became the primary drivers instead of the God of Christianity.  The means had become the end and his partners had left Dr. King behind though he remained the figurehead.  It’s really sad on many different levels.

To all of us in the Christian mainstream, I implore you to keep your eyes on God Himself. 

Take stock of the track you’re following.  Keep careful guard over the company you’re keeping and who you allow to take the reins of the ministry work you do. 

Consider seriously this fact about confusing the ends with the means:

Take the Spirit of Life—Jesus Himself—out of an issue and frankly, it’s dead.

Yes, it applies to the Christian Left but it equally does to the Christian Right.  Follow the notion of Individual—off the Christian ideal of each member of the Body of Christ—and become so focused on the right rail instead of on God and where does this lead us?  Someone pulls the switch and it leads us to the Political Right for whom a human-centered selfish idolatry takes over.  Rugged individualism apart from God leads us way too easily to an “Am I my brother’s keeper?” mentality.  Individualism plus money minus God leads to greed.  It’s serving Mammon instead of God because you can’t serve both.  It leads us to not caring what happens to others so long as it doesn’t impact us.  Looking out for Number One was never Jesus’ motto.  Looking out for the interests of others is more like it.

When we get off-track, though, we can err on either side.  Sacrificing the community for the sake of the individual is every bit as wrong as caring so much about community that we sacrifice individuals for the sake of the many.

We must endeavor–as the Christian mainstream–not to get sidetracked onto other tracks with goals other than God.  It is not easy, particularly the better known and more effective the ministry or church gets.  But by keeping our eyes on the goal of God instead of on the rail, we won’t get carried off-track which happens easily because Bad Company Corrupts Good Character.


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Categories Articles, Articles and Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on November 12, 2013

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