Can you can think of someone who is a always critical, always griping and constantly tempting you? Could you honestly say, “When I’m with this person, I feel worse about myself and life rather than better?
I think that is why the Apostle Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15:33, Do not be misled.
I think he said this because It’s so easy to be misled. We may think; ‘Hanging out with this person is not that big of a deal, I’m just trying to be their friend.” The bible says,
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
Here are two principles to effectively and Biblically reduce damaging relationships.
1. SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
What does a boundary do? A boundary keeps the bad out and it keeps the good in. It’s not that the people are just horrible. But there may be one part of the relationship that is dangerous, certain things that are said that you want to keep out.
Now some of you are thinking, ‘Oh, this doesn’t sound very Christian! , isn’t that the wrong thing to do? Shouldn’t we be loving?’
Actually setting a healthy boundary is a very Christ-like thing to do. Think about this; Jesus loved everyone equally, but He did not treat everyone equally. He recruited 12 people to be His disciples, not 200. When He would go into a town to heal people, He would heal a few people out of the crowd and then He’d leave and sometimes He wouldn’t heal everybody.
Think about how He handled the Pharisees, the religious hypocrites. He had boundaries all of the time with them, “I’m not listening to you, I’m not telling you everything, I’m keeping you at an arm’s length.’ He had boundaries.
He even had boundaries with His very closest friends whenever they tried to take Him away from doing something God wanted Him to do.
Think about Peter, one of the most on-fire Jesus guys. Jesus says; ‘I’m going to have to give my life and die for you.’ And Peter, with good intentions says, ‘No! You can’t die!
And look at what Jesus said as He put up a very firm boundary with Peter, Matthew 16:23:
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:23
In other words Peter, what’s you’re saying, it’s damaging. Even though you don’t mean it, the spiritual enemy is working through you to try to take me off of God’s best. ‘Get behind me Satan, I am not going to let you trip me up!’
Now, I do not recommend that you say to your mother-in-law, “Get behind me, Satan!”
But, what you have to do is be willing to set up some healthy boundaries for God’s bigger plan in your life.
The second thing you have to do if they continue to pollute is:
2. SEPARATE FROM THE DAMAGING RELATIONSHIP
Now, I want to be very, very clear, I am not talking about divorce. This is not a marriage issue.
If you have a damaging marriage, it’s something both of you need to work on. Go to a counselor, go to your Growth Group Coordinator, you work through it.
*I’m also not talking about separating from your family. I’ve got to be honest, I think this is so sad to see how often a parent will say, ‘I’m writing my child off!’ Or to see a child, ‘I’m never speaking to my Dad again!’ No, I am not talking about family. I am not talking about covenant of marriage. You work through the pain. The only time you’re going to separate is when there is a threat of extreme abuse and you are doing it for safety. Jesus allows a separation from a spouse for adultery, nothing else. (Matthew 19:9) None of this, ‘Well she said…, so we are not talking anymore!’ No, you work it through with spouse or family. I’m talking a broader set of relationships.
Here’s an example of a healthy separation from scripture. Paul and Barnabas, they disagreed about one guy going on a mission trip. They clearly disagreed.” And because of their disagreement, they couldn’t continue to minister effectively because they were disagreeing.
So they just said, ‘Let’s go our separate ways. It was all on good terms. ‘You go minister there, I’ll go here.’ And they parted ways so that they could be more effective. (Acts 15:39-40)
In another example, the bible says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 2 Cor 6:14-16
In other words don’t partner up with nonbelievers. You want to have as many non-Christian friends that you can have, as you minister to them. But you are not going to date them if you are a Christian, you are certainly not going to marry them if you are a Christian, you are not going to become partners in a business deal, because ultimately you should have very different values.
Another great example of this when Joseph, in the Old Testament, was serving and honoring Potiphar’s family. Anything the family needed he was there for until Potiphar’s wife asked him to do something very inappropriate. She made a move on him sexually. Watch as he immediately separate from this: Scripture says:
(Potiphar’s wife) caught (Joseph) by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. Genesis 39:12
She’s grabs clothes and he’s leaving them! Notice what he didn’t do. Notice he didn’t say, ‘Oh well, obviously you have a spiritual challenge, may I sit down and hold hands with you and pray with you about this and ask the Lord to deliver you from your lust issues.’ He didn’t do that. Yet sometimes that is what people do. He realized, this could be very, very dangerous and separated immediately.
Some modern examples: If you are a teenager and someone is sending inappropriate sexual texts. You draw a healthy boundary, ‘Stop! I don’t want to see another one of those!’ If they continue, block them, change your number, tell a school counselor. This is a healthy separation.
You’ve got a business partner and they are want to do something very unethical. You say, ‘No. We are not going to do that. They insist; ‘It’s going to drive up profits.’ You say, ‘I can’t continue in this relationship. I will buy you out, you buy me out, but I am not going to compromise my values. Let’s go our separate ways. I will still be nice to you but we are not going to be business partners.’
Flirting at the office: If you are married and someone is flirting with you, that is damaging. You separate, transfer to another department. You do not go to break together, lunch together or travel together. Separate or there is damage.
Ladies, you may be dating someone. He is a jerk, everybody knows it and tell you. You can’t continue with someone who is obviously not God’s best. You say, ‘I am not settling for a fixer-upper. I am not going to insult God to say he couldn’t bring me someone special. You break up. You have faith that God is going to bring you someone better.
If someone continues to tear you down and push you morally, you break it off. I am separating from you. It sounds harsh, but there are times when you need to do this.
The reason you are doing it is so that you can be like Jesus, who at times would set a boundary so He could go be with God for prayer, one time it was for 40 days and 40 nights. So He could be so full of God and so full of His love and so full of His presence and so full of His Spirit. So that Jesus could then with strength go full on into a damaging world and help those who were hurting and open blind eyes and heal death ears and love the unlovable and touch the lepers, because He was so full of God’s presence.
This isn’t a self preservation, I’ve got to stay away from those dangerous people, this is an I’ve got to do what it takes to be so full of God that I can go and give His love to everyone who needs Him in the world. But you will never be able to do that if you continue to let the bad company corrupt your good character.
There are those of you who need to hear from the Spirit of God today. You know it’s time to create a healthy boundary, or separate from damaging relationship so that you can please God.