17 I am warning you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who try to keep you from staying together. They want to trip you up. They teach you things opposite to what you have learned. Stay away from them. 18 People like that are not serving Christ our Lord. They are serving only themselves. With smooth talk and with words they don’t mean they fool people who don’t know any better. 19 Everyone has heard that you obey God. So you have filled me with joy. I want you to be wise about what is good. And I want you to have nothing to do with what is evil. 20 The God who gives peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy works together with me. He sends his greetings to you. So do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. 22 I, Tertius, wrote down this letter. I greet you as a believer in the Lord. 23-24 Gaius sends you his greetings. He has welcomed me and the whole church here into his house. Erastus is the director of public works here in the city. He sends you his greetings. Our brother Quartus also greets you. 25 May God receive glory. He is able to strengthen your faith. He does this in keeping with the good news and the message I preach. It is the message about Jesus Christ. This message is in keeping with the mystery hidden for a very long time. 26 The mystery has now been made known through the writings of the prophets. The eternal God commanded that it be made known. God wanted all the Gentiles to obey him by trusting in him. 27 May the only wise God receive glory forever through Jesus Christ. Amen.
As I read through verses 17-18 of this passage that wraps up the book of Romans, I can almost feel like a teenager again, with my Catholic mother telling me “don’t spend time with those people, they are a bad influence on you!”
It’s so true that the people around us do have a formational effect on our behaviour. It has been proposed in modern psychology and business publications that for most people, they are the average of the five people that they spend the most time with!
So this makes me ask the question – Who are the people that I need to be careful about spending time with?
Then the scarier question – Is there someone who I am being a bad influence on!?! How do I need to change my interactions with others to make sure that my own shortcomings don’t rub off on them negatively?
Thirdly, a question is raised here for me – If Paul is calling us as believers to stay away from those who cause divisions and those who teach things contrary to the Gospel, I wonder how they are to be reached? Are we meant to just isolate ourselves from anyone who might have a negative influence on us, or, is there a way that we can learn to spiritually protect our faith while we engage with anyone who might cause us problems?
Father, thank you that you love to see us continually growing in Christ’s likeness and it is your heart to see us do well in life. Lord I pray that I can be a positive influence on other people and that I might reach those who are truly lost, regardless of the way they conduct their lives.
Written by Ps Justin Ware