You Are Who You Run With

When we’re young, our elders tell us how our friendships will shape our choices, our futures. My youth pastor always told us “You are who you run with.” And Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is supposed to have said, “Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you who you are.”


A friend of mine, who’s a psychologist, says parents shape their children’s values and worldview until late elementary school or early middle school years. After that, it’s the company they keep that molds them. Once you’ve watched a person experience major challenges, you can start to surmise who they’ve been with.


It’s true in a negative light and a positive one as well. After Christ’s resurrection and ascension, his friends (Peter and John) perform an incredible public miracle. They heal a man who has been lame for more than forty years. When a large crowd gathers to see what has happened, the authorities arrest Peter and John.


The next day, the religious rulers drag them before the elders, religious scholars and priests. These are the same people who conspired to kill Jesus. Miracles like these threaten their choke hold on the status quo and keep stories about Jesus in the public conversation. And when these leaders try to intimidate Peter and John into shutting down their work and message, they respond with grace, dignity and courage. 


The next line in the story is telling: “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” Here’s the moral: courage is not derived from mastery of human skills, it comes with proximity to Jesus. The scholars could run theological circles around Peter and John. But they’d never healed lame people and they’d never expressed the tenacity of these everyday fisherman.


Make no mistake: there is a marked different between knowing the “answers” and being with Jesus. The former simply requires rote memorization and access to the script. The latter demands time, spiritual sweat, energy, commitment, passion and patience. You can look to check all the right boxes, but box checkers rarely change the world. People who have been with Jesus? They get to act as a conduit of God’s truth, Christ’s grace and the Spirit’s power. Through them, broken people experience wholeness and the cynics are forced to acknowledge there is something different about them. When in doubt, make sure you are with Jesus. People will notice when they’re ready.

Craig Custance