"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus….And being let go, they went to their own company." (Acts 4:13; 23)
The company you keep—it says a lot about you, you know. As a matter of fact, it says everything about you. With the exception of individuals whose presence is obligatory, those with whom we associate regularly mirror our own attitudes and preferences. You may rise above the company you keep from time to time…but not for long. It was easy to spot that Peter and John had been spending time with Jesus Christ, and it was the reason these two good men ended up in jail. Christ-deniers will use any means possible to stop the spread of His message.
But eventually they were forced to let them go and it was then that Peter and John proved once again the accuracy of the old saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Just as soon as they were free to choose, they “went to their own company.” And so do we. It’s as simple as that. They gravitated to fellow believers as surely as “water rises to its own level.”
It was G. H. Morrison, however, who challenged me to think more closely about those three little words, “And being let go…” As long as they were restrained, they were under the control of someone else; and not until they we set free, were they able to freely choose. In the same way, all through our lives, there will be constraints placed upon you and me, and only when we’re free of them, will we be able to see who we really are. Here are two examples of what I mean.
The prodigal son may very well have led an exemplary life (outwardly) while in his father’s house, but as Morrison so wisely points out, “No man becomes a prodigal in one swift hour. If he went to the harlots, he had been dreaming of them.” Leaving home didn’t make him a prodigal; it merely showed his prodigal heart.
Again, there are men and women, who, while making a living or raising a family, adhere to the restraints of society or propriety until they reach middle age or somewhat older. Then, what often follows is a minor or major “mid-life crisis,” as they call it, when they engage in behavior they would have frowned on, or even condemned when they were younger. This is not a sudden phenomenon; it’s a result of unrestrained thought processes that, when the opportunity arose, were acted upon. Spiritually speaking, they go “to their own company.”
Here’s something to think about: If you could spend one day unrestrained, and unobserved by or accountable to God or man, with whom would you spend that day? It is written of Jacob that he was “gathered to his own people” (Gen. 49:33) and of Judas that he went “to his own place” (Acts. 1:25). In the end, we choose with whom we’re most comfortable, and God obliges us by making them our eternal companions. The world and God knows us by the company we keep.