Every family struggles with “bad friends.” Join AMBrewster as he shows Christian parents what God thinks about “bad friends,” teaches us how to spot them, and gives us biblical principles to help our kids relate to them.
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Welcome back to our counter-cultural, Truth-inspired discussion on what it means to be a friend.
Please make sure you’ve listened to the two previous episodes before you tackle this one. The ideas we’re discussing do not conform to the world’s understanding, and if our concepts of friendship are like the world’s then we won’t be able to appreciate how God wants us to deal with people.
We have to ground ourselves in God’s definition of friendship before we’ll be ready to know what to do if we have a “bad friend.”
I pray this episode will be helpful for you, and — if it is — will you please share this series with as many people as you can?
Facebook and Twitter and word of mouth are amazing ways to get God’s Truth into the lives of your friends.
Also, if you’d be interested in hanging out with me or having me speak to your friends about life, family, God, parenting, marriage — whatever — you can go to TruthLoveParent.com to learn more about that process. Just click not the “Speakers” tab in the main menu.
I would love to meet you and talk with your friends about how God’s Word can revolutionize our families.
To that same end, let’s talk about what we should do if our kids have “bad friends.”
Of course, if you’re returning with us today, you know that there’s no such thing as a “bad friend.” Anyone who doesn’t love your child and work toward God’s best interest in his life is an enemy.
That enemy may like hanging out with your kid, they may even care for your child to one degree or another, but if they don’t push your children toward Christlikeness, then they’re not a friend.
So, today we want to discuss whether or not your children have these fake-friends in their lives, how to help your children realize it, and what to do with them.
1. Do your children have enemies in their lives? Do they have fake friends?
Of course they do!
We didn’t talk about this last time, but the reality of the situation is that a person may be a genuine friend at one moment and an enemy at the next.
This is the human condition. We’re all sinners, and any time we sin against someone or in the presence of someone, we’re being an enemy. We’re either hurting them directly, encouraging them to do something sinful — which is hurtful to them — or we’re modeling a sinful lifestyle.
We discussed why this happens in our Merest Christianity series which answers the question “Why do your kids do what they do?” That study starts in episode 95.
But the simple truth is that born again believers can be enemies when we choose to be selfish and sinful. That should never be our status quo, but it does happen.
Obviously, some people will be friends more than they are enemies, and some will be enemies more than they are friends.
So, we have to acknowledge that this issue is not as cut-and-dry as we may like. Everyone we know will fall on a continuum from 100% Enemy to 100% Friend. Strangers kind of have their own category because you don’t know anything about them. That’s why, generally speaking, we teach our children to be careful of strangers lest they be enemies and we not know it.
Anyway, because we’re all sinners, and because we all sin against each other, you and your family are going to have to decide how you relate to people on the spectrum.
Let me give you an oversimplified example:
This is where you’re going to have to be wise.
Dr. Joe Martin from Real Men Connect shares that his mom would break people up into four categories. Joe was allowed to have Fence Friends, Yard Friends, Porch Friends, and House Friends.
The Fence Friends weren’t allowed in the yard. If Joe was going to interact with them, it was going to be over a fence.
The Yard Friends could play in the yard, but they weren’t allowed to get anywhere near the house.
The Porch Friends were allowed to sit on the porch, but not go into the house.
I think you get the idea.
But the beautiful thing is that Momma Martin had a plan.
And I find it uniquely reminiscent of Psalm 1. Your child must not sit on the porch with scoffers, but perhaps they can talk to them over the fence.
All of this speaks to the importance of parents knowing who their children’s friends are. Mrs. Martin wouldn’t have been able to help Joe distinguish who the Porch and Yard Friends were without being aware of their character.
You can think the child is a 90% Friend because every time you see the kid, they’re wonderful. So, you invite them into the house, but when they’re out of your sight, the kid is a 100% Enemy. They don’t even deserve to hang out at the fence!
The second thing this teaches us is the danger of social media. Your kids may be interacting with hundreds of people every single day, and neither you nor your kids really know whether or not their digital relationships are Enemies or Friends.
I strongly encourage you to listen to episode 88, “Apps You Thought Were Safe for Your Kids, But Aren’t.” We have a number of other shows about social media and technology that every parent who wants to be intentional, informed, and premeditated should hear.
And the third lesson we learn is that our kids need to be taught the difference between an enemy and a friend. So that leads us to number two.
2. Your kids have more enemies in their lives than they have friends, so how do we help them tell the difference?
A. You as the parent need to know what true love and friendship are.
Hopefully, this series and our study on Biblical love have been helpful in this regard. But there’s no substitute for digging into God’s Word and allowing Him to teach you.
B. You have to know the kids with whom your children associate.
I already mentioned this, but it bears repeating. Whether these are kids with whom your kids spend time face-to-face or online, you cannot afford to be ignorant.
Of course, I’m not telling you that you need to know absolutely everything about every child. Listen, we have to trust God to do what we can’t. But we must walk the fine line between doing what we can do and trusting God to do the rest. Not doing anything is negligence and disobedience, but trying to do God’s job is being a control freak.
C. You have to teach your children what the Bible says about love and friendship.
Like we mentioned earlier in this series, it’s not enough for you to know something, you must clearly and systematically teach it to your children.
That’s why God gives us to our kids. We’re His Ambassadors. He uses us to teach our children His Truth and point them to Him.
Don’t neglect sitting down with your kids, walking by the way with your kids, and talking of the things of God.
D. You need to guide your children through a mature and biblically informed evaluation of the kids with whom they associate.
Do you talk to your kids about their friends? I suggest that if you make a habit of this early on then it will be natural and normal to have these conversations later.
I started these talks with my kids before they were old enough to even have real friends, and I’m happy to say that we can talk very openly about their friends without my kids feeling threatened.
My children understand God’s expectations, they understand the importance of my involvement, and they currently appreciate being able to talk about the people in their lives.
And I can honestly say I’m jealously working to keep that relationship and open line of communication with my kids.
Now, there are two very important tools you can use to guide your children through this process.
The first is something about which we’ve talked often: You need to ask a lot of questions. We parents get to used to telling and teaching and lecturing.
That is a super important part of what we do, but after we’ve laid the foundation, we need to get in the habit of asking questions.
Who do you think is your closest friend?
Why do you call them a friend?
How do they show God’s love to you?
Have they ever encouraged you to do something that would displease the Lord?
Are they the same person around their parents and us that they are when we’re not around?
And as the answers start flowing, you’re going to have to push for biblical conclusions.
It’s so easy to say, “Well, I wouldn’t say they love me like God loves me, but they’re still a good friend.”
Or, “Who cares if he doesn’t respect his parents, we still like hanging out together.”
“It’s not like he’s selling me drugs or something!”
In episode 104 we talked about the fact that your child needs an interpreter, and if you find that they’re not applying God’s Truth the right way, then you need to help them understand it.
Now, this process can be fraught with issues, and I would encourage you to listen to episode 39 about Revolving Priorities. You may want to talk to your chid about their friends, but if your child gets defensive and angry and disrespectful during the conversation, then you’re going to need to table the friend discussion and revolve to the more pressing issue.
But, let’s say the conversation is going well? How do you really determine the percentage of time your child’s peer is a friend versus an enemy?
I’d like to read an extended quote and make my own comments about a handout called “7 Trademarks of an Unhealthy Friendship.” It was written by Paul David Tripp and is based off of Ephesians 4.
I suggest you use this to help your children get a balanced view of their peers.
1. Does the relationship have a tendency toward self-indulgence?
Ephesians 4:17-24 lay out two warring kingdoms: the kingdom of self and self-indulgence vs. the Kingdom of Christ and self-sacrifice. Every day in your friendship, a battle will be fought on your heart. Will you allow the relationship to be driven by what you want, or by God's purpose?
On the other hand, does your friend always push toward what they want, or God's purpose?
2. Does the relationship have a tendency toward deceit?
Verse 25 says that we must speak honestly in our friendship, but because we are often driven by our own purpose and not the Lord's, we will be tempted to manipulate the truth to get what we want from the other person. This is one reason Jesus says, "Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil." (Matthew 5:37)
Does your friend ever lie to you, exaggerate, deceive, or manipulate you?
3. Does the relationship have a tendency toward anger?
Verses 26-27 quote Psalm 4:4. It's not a sin to be angry; you should be righteously angered when a friend sins against you. However, sin comes into play and the devil gets a foothold when we attempt to control the relationship by venting our anger or by holding it over our friend's head to manipulate them.
Does your friend frequently get angry with you? When was the last time they got angry and about what were they angry?
As a side note, you may want to teach your children about biblical anger by listening to episode 153, “Is It Okay to Get Mad?”
4. Does the relationship have a tendency toward selfishness?
Verse 28 may feel hard to relate to at first if you’re employed or a hard worker and not a thief by definition of local law. So think about it in a more simple way: how often do you protect or hold on to what you have, rather than offer it to your friend in an effort to serve them?
On the other hand, how often does your friend protect or hold on to what they have, rather than offer it to you in an effort to serve you?
5. Does the relationship have a tendency toward unhelpful communication?
Verses 29-30 warn us that rather than using our language to build others up, we tend to use words to ensure that we have the top spot in our friendship. Proverbs 18:21 offers a more severe warning: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Does your friend tear you down, make fun of you, or complain about you?
6. Does the relationship have a tendency toward division?
Again, verse 31 may feel unrelatable at first, especially if you haven't gotten into a brawl with your friend! However, it's much more common for us to view our friend as some type of adversary, rather than a companion in the struggle of relationship.
Has your friend ever set you against herself?
7. Does the relationship have a tendency toward an unforgiving spirit?
The final verse in the chapter is the ultimate definition of a gospel friendship. Rather than want to make a friend pay for their wrongs against us, we should be the first to forgive, because no one forgives more freely than the person who knows how much they've been forgiven in Christ.
Does your friend forgive or do they hold grudges?
Okay, so let’s say that you’ve determined there are people your child has called their friends who are consistently friends more often than their enemies. Great.
But in the discussion you also determine that there are people with whom your children have been spending significant one-on-one or small group time who are enemies more often than they’re friends. What then?
5. You have to teach your kids how God wants them to relate to enemies.
Now, this is a relatively simple concept, but it’s not intuitive.
God wants all of our relationships to be redemptive relationships. That means that every person with whom we interact should be drawn closer to God because they were with us.
So, if the individual is unsaved, then there’s clear biblical teaching that I am not to fellowship with them. I John teaches us that there is no fellowship between light and darkness. To fellowship is to share or to contribute, but it can also refer to intimacy and intercourse.
The idea is that things that fellowship are similar — light with light. Oil and water don’t mix. Light and dark can’t exist in the same space at the same time.
God doesn’t command us to ignore and run away from unbelievers. He simply points out that we don’t have anything in common and cannot — therefore — fellowship.
But we are commanded to love them and share God’s Truth with them. If we’re being a true friend to them, there should be nothing more important to us than sharing the Gospel with the unsaved.
This is not a mindset reserved for mature Christians only. We can train our youngest born again children to understand this Truth and passionately seek for the salvation of their unsaved acquaintances.
But what if the enemy claims to be a Christian? Again, the Bible is clear.
Consider I Corinthians 5:9-13. Paul says, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.”
Associate with speaks of keeping company. Interestingly enough, the three times this Greek word is used in the Bible, it’s describing someone with whom we should not be associating.
So, he continues, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.”
He’s saying that I’m not telling you not to rub shoulders with unsaved sinners. No, no. That would be impossible.
“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.””
Our redemptive relationships with the professing Christians are to be identical to the unsaved in that our interactions must draw them to God. And in the case of a professing brother or sister in Christ, if they are living in unrepentant sin, God says, “Don’t rub shoulders with them.”
And then James says in 5:19-20, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
So, God wants us to admonish Christians who act like enemies. But he definitely wants us spending less time with them than with unbelievers.
Jesus ate with unsaved sinners, but He commands us to not even eat with professing Christians who are living in sin.
That almost seems counterintuitive, but it makes perfect, biblical sense.
So, how do we treat our enemies?
If they’re unsaved, we interact with them in order to better share the Gospel. And what about professing Christian enemies? We interact with them to better share the Gospel.
We shouldn’t be fellowshipping with either. And neither should our kids.
Of course, our relationships with our actual friends should very similar, but instead of calling them to the Gospel, we’re to walk with them in the Gospel, encouraging growth and continued submission to Christ.
Now, there is so much more that could be said on they subject. This is merely a thumbnail sketch of the biblical concepts wrapped up in friendship.
We should easily turn to I Samuel 18, 19, and 23 to discuss David and Jonathan. I encourage you to do that with your kids in order to help them understand what a God-honoring friendship looks like.
The key point is this: friends love. Love is actively working toward God’s best interest for the one loved.
Enemies hate. Hate is actively or passively encouraging people to disobey God.
Your kids are to love everyone regardless of how they’re treated, therefore all of our relationships are to be redemptive. If the person is unsaved, we should do everything we can to introduce them to Christ. If the person claims to be born again, but they are living like an enemy, we should want for them to be reconciled with God and with the people they’ve sinned against. And if the individual is a true friend, we should lift them up and pray for them and encourage them in the Lord.
So, I’m going to ask you to be a good friend by sharing this episode. The more people who know what a biblical friend is and who can train their children to do the same . . . the better.
Of course, if you still have questions, feel free to email us at counselor@TruthLoveParent.com. And you can get our free episode notes at TruthLoveParent.com.
On our next episode we’re going to talk about Fathering for Jesus, but it will be super applicable to moms too. So, I hope you’ll join us.
Praise God than even when we were His enemies, He loves us and drew us to Him. May we and our children truly understand friendship, and may our kids' friends be real friends, not enemies in disguise.
See you next time.
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