By Alisha Headley, Crosswalk.com
I'm sure you've heard the phrase 'you are the average of the five closest people to you.' Some studies show that you become who you surround yourself with. For example, if your friend becomes obese, studies show you're 45% more likely to gain weight. And it doesn't stop at obesity; similar studies show if a friend smokes, you will most likely be a smoker, and if they are a drinker, you will tend to drink more. On the flip side of being influenced by what is perceived as negative qualities, you can just as easily be influenced by positive friends in your life. If I have a friend who works out, you will most likely join them on a fitness journey. Or when it comes to happiness, studies also show that happy friends make you happy as well – no surprise there.
Your friends and the people closest to you have more of an impact and influence on your life and your way of thinking than you may realize. Determining who to be friends with and what friendships you need to cut off can feel overwhelming. Especially if you have a circle of friends you knew before you came to know the Lord who still live life according to the world. Or perhaps you have friends that have been family friends your entire life, so you tell yourself, you can never cut them out of your life since they are forever family. Maybe you experienced a time in your life where they were there for you, so your loyalty has remained intact with them no matter what the cost.
Thankfully, we have Jesus's life we can look at to help us determine how He lived with His circle of friends as He was our greatest example which also walked this same earth.
Jesus's Inner Circle of Friends
For years I had the belief that I should be friends with everyone and love everyone no matter what, no matter how they treated me or influenced me because after all, the second greatest commandment is just that: to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39), followed by the "first and greatest commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37-38)
However, loving all doesn't mean building a close intimate friendship with all. In Jesus's time on earth, we see story after story told that He loved all. He loved well and loved with grace and forgiveness and brought the lost out of their shame. He loved well, and He loved all.
But we learn that His inner circle was not the mass of people. He loved the multitude of everyone he encountered and then officially chose His twelve disciples to do life within Luke 6:12-16. These were 12 people who left their lives to follow Him and God's ways. The group consisted of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot. Now, twelve is a large group of friends, but these are the twelve that Jesus did life with every day, and all served the same purpose of spreading the news of the Gospel. But out of those twelve, three disciples (Peter, James, and John) seem to have been the closest friendships to Jesus and acted as an "inner circle" to Christ.
Many scholars believe Jesus had the closest relationship to these three disciples because they were present with Jesus during every special event, witnessing and accompanying Him in vital moments in His ministry. They witnessed His most extraordinary moments of glory as well as His darkest trials. They were His closest friendships. Jesus loved all; He walked with the twelve but did the significant and hard parts of their life with three. I desire and pray to have a Peter, James, and John in my life. Three that will always point me to the mission at hand, three that we can learn from each other and encourage each other in this life.
We are also to love all, and we will have a variety of groups of 'twelve' that walk alongside us in our lives like co-workers, church friends, our children's friends, their parents, neighbors, etc. But, we also need to develop our Peter, James, and John as Jesus did. While they were not perfect, there was a reason Jesus chose to be at some of the most important times in His life. Let's strive to develop friendships like these too. Here are three signs and questions you can ask yourself to determine if you need to cut off a friendship or if the friendships you have are those like Jesus had.
1. Is the friendship pointing you to the world or the Word?
Not everyone in your life you meet or those you do your everyday life with will be Christians and lovers of God, and that's ok. But when you choose those close friendships in your life (your Peter, James, and John), you must evaluate if they are a friend that is pointing you to the world or the Word of Christ. You may think even your Christian friend gives you great advice, but great advice is not God's advice. The Word of God (the Bible) is the only source of truth in this world full of lies, no matter who the advice comes from.
We live in a deceptive world. The enemy comes to "steal, kill, and destroy" (John 10:10) anything in our life to cause division and even masks himself as light. 2 Corinthians 11:14 says, "For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light." He can come for us in deceitful ways or through other people, and this can be through our friendships that feed us lies or feed us 'almost' truths. Remember, Satan is the "father of all lying and there is no truth in Him" (John 8:44), and He will often try to distort the truth just enough to make it believable.
So, ask yourself, is your friendship pointing you to the world or the Word? If your friendship is feeding your thoughts and views of the world, they could be pointing you away from God and his purposes for you, away from the truth. I Thessalonians 5:21 says to "examine everything" up against the Word of God, and if a friendship isn't pointing you back to the truth of God and is not aligning with the truth written in God's Word, then it may be a sign that you need to cut off that friendship or gently place them out of your inner circle.
2. Do you consistently gossip and talk negatively in the friendship?
I love to talk. My love for talking has turned into writing. But too much talk, as we all know, can get us in trouble and destroy relationships of any kind. In fact, some of us may have already experienced the downfall of friendships in the past because of words spoken. Proverbs 10:19 provides us wisdom on this topic as it says, "when words are many, sin is unavoidable." The fewer words, the less sin, the less damage. It's wiser to say less. However, in friendships, especially women friendships, we love to talk, and more often than not, that talk turns into gossip or negative talking and can cause further damage down the road.
To determine if a friendship you have is right for you or if you need to cut it off, consider asking yourself what your conversations exist around. Do they exist around other friends or a mutual friend you both like talking badly about? Have you ever hung up the phone with a girlfriend who was negative about their husband and marriage, and you suddenly found yourself a little angry and questioning your own situation too, and disrespecting your husband? Friendships like this could be affecting your own situation.
What you speak over others or your own lives can cause great damage, so if you have a friendship that always leads to gossip and negative talk of any kind, consider cutting it off. Though it may seem small to gossip here and there, the tongue is actually capable of great damage, as James 3:5-6 warns us, "even so the tongue is a little member and yet boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles." It's hard to tame our tongue, but even harder if you have a friendship that participates in this with you. This may be a sign you need to cut off these friendships or gently place them out of your inner circle.
3. Has your friendship become your go-to resource over the Source?
A way to determine if you may need to cut off a friendship is if they have taken more of a first place in your life above God. Start simple by asking yourself, do you turn to this friendship for all your advice, tears, good, and everything that happens in your life before or more often than you go to the Lord?
Many of us turn to all these resources and depend on them more than we depend on God. This could be your mother, a pastor, or your best friend, who is Christian. While these are all great resources, and we should all have these in our lives to rely on, they are not the Source. We must make sure we put God on the throne of our hearts above all else. We must be willing to give up any resource, including possessions or people such as our family. Jesus said that to be His disciple, we must "hate our father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also…" (Luke 14:27) When Jesus is referring to hate, I believe He means that all our other loyalties must be subordinate to devotion to the Lord even our closest relationships. Many times, friendships come before our devotion to the Lord. We can still have friendships and love people, and what a gift, but they must not take the place of Him.
It must be Him first, then our friendships. The amount of time we invest in friendships, we should be investing more time in our God. So, suppose your daily phone calls and the majority of your texts throughout the day are spent on a friendship over the Lord. In that case, it may be a sign it's time to cut off that friendship or gently place them out of your inner circle and instead put God back in His rightful place as the only one on the throne of your heart.
Alisha Headley is a writer + speaker who has a desire to meet the everyday woman in her everyday life with biblical truth. Stepping into her true calling, she left the corporate world behind as a former-financial VP to love on her family as a stay-at-home wifey + dog mama, while also being able to pursue her passion as a writer. Healing from a chapter of life consumed with lies she once believed about herself, she is inspired to point women to Christ to experience the freedom + power to overcome those lies with the truth written in God’s word. In her free time, Alisha enjoys road trips around the country, working out so she can eat her favorite foods, and creatively styling her outfits with a craft for fashion. Alisha is a proud wifey and dog mama living in Scottsdale, Arizona.