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Helping or Hurting?

Janice met a new girl at church. She and Grace had a lot in common. Janice liked Grace and wanted to build a friendship with her. They began chatting online, texting, calling, and eventually hanging out together at each other’s homes. As time went on, Janice began to notice that something was not quite right. Eventually she learned that her new friend had a problem. Grace was horribly disrespectful to her parents and showed a blatant disregard for authority.  As she began to realize this, Janice felt her heart being tugged. She wanted to help Grace. She started trying to figure out what she could say or do, or what kind of help she could offer Grace.

Soon Janice’s parents sat her down for a talk. They told her they were concerned that she was spending too much time with Grace, and Grace’s attitudes were beginning to rub off onto Janice. Janice couldn’t believe it. She was shocked! She had only been trying to help Grace – could it be true that in the midst of trying to help her change, Janice was the one changed? As Janice began to go over the past few days and weeks, she realized it was true. In an effort to help her new friend, she had slowly slipped into the same sin.

Now she had a dilemma. Janice still loved Grace like a sister, and wanted to be her friend – and wanted to help her! But how could she do that while staying true to her own values and convictions? As she prayed about it, she realized she couldn’t have the best of both worlds, and a compromise was needed.

Going to Grace, she told her what had happened. Janice told Grace that rebelling against authority, all authority, was not only disrespectful to the authority, but also to God. Then Janice apologized for not being a better example to Grace, but instead letting herself become the same way.

“I should’ve been honest with you from the beginning,” she said. “Instead, I tried to secretly change you just by being around you all the time, hoping I’d rub off on you.”

Then Janice told Grace that, for now at least, she thought they needed to spend a little less time together. “I still want to be your friend,” she continued, “and I still want to spend time talking to you, but right now, I need to get my attitude straight.”

At first, Grace was pretty surprised at what Janice said. Then she felt offended. Why hadn’t Janice told her she had a problem with her to begin with? But the words Janice had spoken planted a seed, and she slowly began to realize the truth in what she had been told.

Janice and Grace continued being friends, though spending considerably less time together. As God began to change Grace’s attitude, they became to spend more time together. Their relationship deepened and they became even closer sisters in Christ. They constantly prayed for each other and encouraged each other. And if they noticed an old attitude or practice popping up, they were quick to warn each other and stay accountable.

How about you?

How far is too far? When does helping your friend cause harm to yourself? Or even possibly to your friend? Janice didn’t know how to tell, and it hurt her, it hurt her family, and it hurt her friend.

Maybe your friend’s problem is something simple, like slipping cuss words every now and then, or being rude to his parents. Or maybe she has a bigger problem like sleeping around or using drugs or alcohol. Either way, good intentions are not good enough.

-Before you do anything else, pray.

When your friend has a problem, one of the first things you need to do is pray for them. Don’t just pray something general like, “help Thomas be nice today,” but really pray for them. Pray that God will open their eyes and hearts to see what’s really wrong and then do what it takes to fix it. Don’t mail it in – be passionate about wanting them to be right with God.

-Recognize what you can do to help.

Let’s say your friend has a “little” lying problem. How do you help? Pray for an opportunity to talk to her about the issue. When the opportunity arises, do it. Show her how choosing the truth leads to life. Don’t be rude, pushy, or arrogant in the way you talk to her, though. Be patient, kind, and loving. After all, if you didn’t love your friend, you wouldn’t really be all that concerned, would you?

Also, importantly, don’t give your friend the chance to indulge in the sin. When you’re with your friend, don’t let her lie to you. Don’t let her lie to her parents. If she starts to, cut her off and tell the truth. She might be pretty ticked at you at first, but you’re only being obedient to Christ.

If you friend is doing something illegal, you have a responsibility to tell an adult, whether it be a parent, pastor, or even a police officer, what’s going on. Warn your friend first, and give them the opportunity to change and to stop. But if they don’t, then you need to follow through.

-Don’t get dragged down.

This can easily happen when you spend all your time with your friend in need of help. Don’t. If you spend all your time with them, inevitably you’re going to slip up. So limit your interaction. You still have a testimony to keep. What does it say about you if you’re only hanging out with people who are deep in some serious sin problems? Don’t be a stranger or someone who only shows up to criticize. Be a good friend and be there for them, but don’t be an extra limb.

-Don’t get discouraged.

Chances are, your friend isn’t really going to want help. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to help anyway. Don’t get discouraged if they get upset with you. They may even yell at you or tell you to back off. If they do, then back off and move on to the next step.

-Finish it right.

At this point, all that’s left to do is pray. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

-How “helping” can be “hurting.”

Be careful. One of the worst ways to approach this type of situation is to be passive. Being passive can imply that you don’t care or even that you approve of their behavior. To lead someone to believe that you endorse their behavior will give them the impression that there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing. If, later on, you find the courage to tell them you think it’s wrong, they’ll question you for not saying something all that time before. Or, if another Christian confronts them of their sin, they could use you as an excuse, saying something like, “John’s a Christian and we’ve been hanging out for years. He’s never said anything, so it can’t be that bad.”

This passiveness in relationships is popular. People often think just by being around someone you can have influence over them to change their habits. The most common example is “missionary dating,” when someone who is saved dates someone who is unsaved, in hopes of leading them to Christ. Is it ever successful? Rarely. Instead, what often happens is that Christian gets dragged down to join the unsaved partner. Why would it be any different in regular friendships?

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 harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

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