I sit and watch him mount the podium. I anticipate the sermon he will bring. What theme will the message be based on? What stories will he insert? I look forward to a sermon on relationship, sex or purpose, three topics that happen to be my favorite. I shift on my seat, smiling as he picks the microphone. He clears his throat. It’s time.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the mockers…”
As he continues, I know I’m wrong. This is no message on purpose or sex, this is just an addition to the thousand others I had listened to. The kind that tells me “the company I keep determines what accompanies me…”The kind that talks on association – my least favorite topic.
I don’t want to sit here and listen to someone tell me to discard my friends. He doesn’t know my friends. They all don’t. My friends define fun. All the incessant hang outs, all the trips, all the boys, all the parties, that’s life! How can I just suddenly tell them I don’t want to associate with them any longer? That some guy in a suit told me that “Iron should sharpen iron” and they weren’t sharpening me? How can I….? And then it clicks. Suddenly, in the middle of the sermon, I remember the story with the thousand and one lessons. Incidentally, a friend had told me about it but I hadn’t particularly noted it until now. The story is on Amnon.
Amnon wanted to have sex with his sister but he couldn’t. So, he raped her and sent her out. The end. Now that I think about it, I realize, Amnon just didn’t rape his sister because he wanted sex, he raped her because his FRIEND, Jonadab advised him to. If Jonadab had been absent, I want to believe Amnon would never had conceived that subtle idea but he told a friend his problem and a friend, in turn gave him a master plan, perfectly laying out all the blue prints. A friend did the thinking, Amnon only hatched it and it was smooth. Two years later, Amnon’s brother revenged. Tamar, the victim was his full sister and he couldn’t bear that a guy raped her.
So, he killed Amnon. It happened at a feast where other brothers were gathered. So, when news reached their father, he wept because he thought all his sons had been killed. Someone however had the most comforting words for the king. While the king wept, Jonadab said:
“My king should not think that they killed all the princes. Only Amnon is dead…My lord should not be concerned by the report…only Amnon is dead.”
Yeah, Jonadab, Amnon’s FRIEND said that. Of course, he was still alive even though he was the mastermind, the conceiver of the plan. Amnon, however paid for it, with his life.
I sigh after this reiteration and can’t help but agree with the preacher’s words when he says “You can never escape the influence of the company you keep, whether good or bad.”
I’m aware that my heart is beating faster now and my mind is suddenly at work, conjuring memories I share with my friends. What have they added to my life since I started hanging out with them? I knew the answer. It was nothing. Nothing but a bunch of vain things. Nothing but hook ups with rich boys. Nothing but the two abortions I had had. Nothing but the wonderfully risky trips we took without permission. Nothing but the decrease in my school grades because my ‘friends’ keep telling me that attending classes is the most voluntarily excruciating pain that can be easily avoided. Nothing but one negative thing or the other.
Without being told, I know I have to change them. I believe if I renew my steps with Christ, I can ask the Holy Spirit to help me, such that when I see them, I can “call a spade a spade and not just an agricultural implement”like one of my pastors would say. I close my eyes…“God help me define my association.”, I pray. With closed lids, I tune myself to the preacher’s last words and hear him say:
“Man is a social animal. It is virtually impossible not to associate with one another but one of the few things that God has given us the liberty to choose ourselves is the company that we keep. Your friends can either make or mar you. You association is a vital aspect in the fulfillment of God’s purpose for your life. You have that choice, choose wisely.”
Just before he drops the mic, he adds, “I leave you on this note…”, his final words that has got me heaving, “..who are the ones around your neck? who are your friends?”
Written by: Seun Olagunju
(1) 2 samuel 13
(2) Psalm 1:1-3