I once heard that when you’re around ten years old the music that you hear makes a deep impression on you. I often find myself liking music that’s produced today that retains some sort of 80’s vibe in it. That’s when I went to high school. It’s been reported that research reveals good reasons for this. Research actually shows that between the ages of 12 and 22 we find ourselves hardwiring the music we heard right into our personalities. Why is this so? Music has a powerful influence on the brain. Music can be a potent mix of neurochemicals that make us feel extremely good. We notice that different generations gravitate toward different music. We might often wonder why our parents just don’t like the music we want to Bluetooth in the car. This is because their personalities are just different and won’t typically be stimulated by what we consider awesome.
The ages of 12 to 22 are very formative years. They can actually be a big contribution to who we become. We begin to discover who we are when we’re in our teens. We begin looking to our peers for identity instead of our parents. Our hormonal changes cause us to think everything is important. We begin looking to the opposite sex for validation within our social circles. What kind of music do they like? How they feel is important. Even though many years later we understand how naive we were during those years, those years were formative years. We became someone socially during those years. What were the trends of that time? What kind of clothing was en vogue? What shoes? Hairstyles? Can you remember the first boy or girl that sent you a flirting note during a class period? Did you have a crush on someone? Can you remember the feeling of the seasons when you were in junior high? Can you remember the hottest music of those years? I certainly can. And it’s going to stick with me for the rest of my life even though my taste in music has matured.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says “Don’t be deceived. Bad company ruins good morals.” What Paul doesn’t necessarily mean is that bad company makes you change your intellectual position on what morals are and what they aren’t. Paul is quoting the Greek poet Menander who meant that if you surround yourself (your social circle) with people who disregard the value of virtue you’re bound to weaken your resolve for high standards, character, and discipline. The Corinthians seem to be doing just this, surrounding themselves with the ungodly culture they are so accustomed to living in and that means their view of Christ and their influence upon pagans is being undermined. These Corinthians are in their formative years and their peers, and especially their culture, are definitely trying their best to derail Paul’s gospel.
Today is no different than when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians. It doesn’t matter if we dress up and sit in a pew or a cushioned chair on Sunday if the Gospel of Christ becomes powerless in our lives. Paul spoke of not being deceived for good reason. He asks them what he gains if he fought with beasts at Ephesus. In other words, why fight the fight he’s fighting if it doesn’t matter in the end. We don’t read of Paul actually fighting animals anywhere. There were “beasts”, bad company, who Paul “fought” with at Ephesus, likely the “savage wolves” spoken of by Luke in Acts 20. It was predicted they would not spare the Ephesian flock, the group of Christians who were then in their formative years. Paul is saying that he’s insane for fighting this, fighting for the foundational truths of the Gospel in Ephesus and now Corinth if there is no resurrection from the dead. He might as well live it up and at some point in the future, just die and be done with it all. “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'” For the Corinthians, the Gospel of Christ began to have no effect because the popular thing to believe was that there is no resurrection from the dead. Remember Paul telling Timothy how he’s fought the good fight? Paul fought for the development of Christ in believers, for intellectual development and the development of their character.
Today, Christians are also in their formative years just like the Corinthians were in the first century. Some Christians chose bad company then and some choose bad company today. And, many don’t seem to mind it. After all, it’s what so many seem to be approving of. Some might say “Why should Christians today spend so much time getting Christ’s story straight when it doesn’t really matter in the end?” Or, “Who’s got time to study the Bible anymore? No one really knows what they’re talking about anyway? Surely God knows my heart?” Paul knows very well that Christians in their formative years are very susceptible to culture and he knows it will stick with them for the rest of their lives, as well as in the resurrection. That’s why he, like a father, fought these “beasts.” Those “beasts” were ready to consume the Christian identity of all believers. Culture isn’t amoral. Culture is rarely innocent and it always shapes people. Paul is persuading every generation to consider how they are being formed. Paul was bent on speaking the truth about Christ even if culture wanted to censor him. Paul knew how important it was and would be to be surrounded by people who want to please God and work for God’s kingdom. It does matter in the end. It does matter how we’re formed after becoming Christians. Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead because he wanted to come back on stage and take a bow after paying the price for sins. Raising the dead into a transformed physicality is real, and it’s why Paul worked so hard at preaching the Gospel.
“Don’t be deceived. Bad company corrupts good habits, character, virtue, discipline, living faith, preaching and teaching, compassionate and encouraging Christians, entire churches, growing children, caring parents, caring families and communities, business people, law enforcement, local leaders, mayors, governors, politicians, media, international politics…” It all begins with what some see as a benign worldview. The serpent’s words to Eve must have seemed just as harmless. “Surely you won’t die.” Teaching the word of God won’t guarantee that people believe and obey God, but we can be sure that ignoring the word of God will send people toward death. Most people who claim to be Christians don’t love, not because they’ve never heard of love, but because they’re in the habit of surrounding themselves with bad company. They’re deceiving themselves.
Not everyone in the world grew up between the ages of 12 and 22 with the good vibes many of us did. Their formative years were traumatic and destructive. Paul sought to save those people (as he would seek to save us all) beginning with the proclamation of a new King, one who has defeated sin and evil and one who will never die again. We have a choice each day. Be formed as the Corinthians and Ephesians were by allowing themselves to be deceived and degrade our faith by marginalizing truth or be formed as Paul who imitated Christ and exalted truth. Choose, because it will form you today and stick with you for the rest of your life, now and forever.
Categories: The Gospel Story