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Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo

by Josue Sanchez

My knees were shaking. I could barely hold the change for the ticket in my hand as I waited impatiently in line. Thirty more seconds, and I’d be able to hop on the train. That’s when somebody tapped me on the shoulder from behind.
“Excuse us, young man,” the policemen said. The coins fell from my trembling hands, and as I bent over to pick them up, I looked up. The officers seemed huge!

Then a woman accused me. “Yeah, this is the guy who stole a licorice from the store!” Yup, you read that right. I got in trouble with the police for stealing a 25-cent candy.

I don’t even like licorice!

That’s the kind of foolish choice that someone can make when they’re bored, have too much free time on their hands, or find themselves in the wrong company. It’s a recipe for disaster. You’d think that the embarrassing incident with the police would have made me straighten up. Nope, it didn’t. Things at home were tough. My dad suffered from a terminal illness, Mom had to work full-time, and I couldn’t stand my sister. I wanted out of the house and chose the wrong company. My friend and I embarked for the next few months on a series of unfortunate events that involved weed (marijuana), gin, clubs, and general mischief. I was 15 years old.

You see, choosing friends is serious business. It’s not the sort of thing you leave up to a game of “Eeny, meeny, miney, mo.” It goes beyond following somebody on Twitter or accepting a friend request on Facebook. Friendships dig deep. They affect the music you listen to, the movies you watch, the conversations you dwell on, the clothes you buy, and your grades at school. Even mannerisms change—I remember inadvertently replicating my friend’s laugh! Being in the right crowd will help you succeed in life. Join some questionable fellas, and you are setting yourself up for failure.

So what to do?

Since you already started the process of Enoch-ifying yourself—aka walking with God—things are much simpler. You just need to look it up in the Bible. Paul, a man who at one time joined the wrong crowd but got pulled out by Jesus, said, “Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:7-10, NLT).*

There are two points to remember here. First, “don’t participate in the things these people do.” If you smell trouble, don’t do it. Period. Remember, you are literally walking with God. I’m not kidding. You may not see Him, but He is definitely by your side in the form of the Holy Spirit. So use Him! Ask Him to give you the strength to say no to bad choices and yes to smart ones. And most important, ask Him to help you face peer pressure with your chin up. There’s nothing shameful in making the right decisions, however unpopular they might seem. With God, you’re always a winner.

Second, “carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” Look for clues. Observe. What do your friends share on Facebook? What do they retweet? What kind of “selfies” do they post on Instagram? What’s their language on Vine? Where do they check in? Do they abuse Snapchat? Whatever is in your heart determines what you say or do, online or not. That goes for your friends, too. If your friends’ online and face-to-face activity doesn’t please the Lord, avoid them. If your friends do “what is good and right and true,” join them.

It’s that simple.

My friend and I got into an argument and parted ways. I had a few years of ups and downs, in and outs, but finally made my way back to Jesus. So did he. We are both now committed to God and are surrounded by good friends who “live as people of light.” It doesn’t always happen this way, but I’m glad that our story had a good ending. Speaking of happy endings, next week we’ll talk about summer love . . . ooh-la-la! You don’t want to miss that one!

* Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Josue Sanchez is a youth pastor and freelance writer from Ontario, Canada.

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