He called me, nearly crying.
“I just want to go home,” he said.
This is one of my clients, a juvenile delinquent who’s been in long-term detention for almost a year. But he could have been released in six months. The key in these facilities is good behavior, staying on level five, the highest one.
He’s on two.
“You’re smart,” I said. “But you’ll be in prison for the next 20 years if you don’t change.”
His reports repeat the same problem: “Takes up with the wrong boys.”
“You have to be on five,” I said. “Stay close to Jesus. Choose friends who love Him.”
When I hung up, I called the head of the state juvenile justice program.
“Let’s start a Bible study there. He’ll go, and it will give him a good group to run with.”
In fact, the first thing I did in law school was join the Christian student group, CLS. That’s where I met my dear friend, Teri Zintgraff Youhanaie, and we’ve remained friends ever since. She has a strong faith, and I wanted such like-minded people in my life.
Later that evening on the day I talked with my juvenile, I called my prayer-partner in Florida.
“Why do you think we’ve been friends for ten years?” I asked her.
“I don’t know.”
“Because we’re alike. We both love Jesus.”
My mom used to say, “Water seeks its own level.” The things you hold dear will show in the friends you have.
You see this in Scripture with Jonathan and David. Many think they were roughly the same age, but Jonathan was a good 25 years older.
Still, Jonathan and David are strikingly similar — amazing warriors by their teens with absolute trust in God.
You may recall how Jonathan quietly slips away from Israel’s camp near Michmash when he’s probably 16. This is an early battle against the Philistines. Jonathan takes only his young armor bearer as he hurries toward the enemy.
“Come let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us…”
“I am with you heart and soul,” his armor-bearer says.
The crown prince then asks God for a sign, and God gives the go ahead.
It appears the enemy laughs at Jonathan, beckoning him onward with his suicide mission: “Come up and we will show you a thing.”
Jonathan then climbs the rocky crag to the garrison on his hands and feet, followed by his armor-bearer. The two kill 20 Philistines in the first strike.
God then brings an earthquake so violent that the enemy garrison shakes, which throws the Philistines into a great panic.
From afar, Jonathan’s father, King Saul, can see that the Philistines are dispersing. As soon as he realizes Jonathan is gone, he rallies the Israelites against the Philistines and follows them hard in battle. 1 Samuel 14:1-23
But war with the Philistines doesn’t end there; it will continue throughout Saul’s long reign. In fact, roughly 25 years pass from Saul’s first battle with the Philistines to the challenge by the Philistine giant, Goliath.
As I said, young David is as brave as Jonathan and shares Jonathan’s belief that God is in control.
“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” David asks. 1 Samuel 17:26
There’s little doubt that Jonathan, now in his forties, sees himself in young David. That forms the basis for their strong friendship — Jonathan and David are kindred souls.
We’re attracted to like-minded individuals.
My best buddies are the Baptist men in my Bible study. They’ve come together every Wednesday at six a.m. for the past two decades to study Scripture. That’s long before they invited me to join them. Their devotion to Jesus is real, and that matters most to me.
What does the choice of your friends say about you?
Ask the same of your children, siblings, parents, and grandparents. What do their choices say?
Have that conversation.
I can trace the poorest decisions of my life to bad company. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” 1 Corinthians 15:33
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise…” Proverbs 13:20
“Make no friendship with a man given to anger…” Proverbs 22:24
Surround yourself with those who love the Lord. And do so for good reason — this one thing will bring you a great life. Jesus.
The Rev. Mathews is a faith columnist and attorney.
Copyright © 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.