Someone finally figured out how to keep family members from rushing in and stealing all of the good brownies (which many people consider to be the ones in the corners with the extra-crispy edges). The solution is a pan with a serpentine-shaped channel, where every brownie has at least 2 – if not 3 – baked edges for that extra crunch.1 (On the other hand, if – like me – you enjoy the center brownies, with just a little bit of gooey goodness in the middle, right after they come out of the oven, you’ll still need to search for a technical solution.)
Like many inventions, the solution seems pretty obvious when we look at it in retrospect. In order to create more edge pieces, the pan just needed to have more edges (or, for mathematicians, a single edge that contacted each brownie piece more times).
As it turns out, when we are surrounded by something, we are almost always influenced by it. Just like brownies’ edges dry out when in contact with the edges of a baking pan, our attitudes, actions, and opinions tend to be a product of who we spend time around.
In a negative sense, parents warned their children for years about the risks of having friends who exert a bad influence. This is not a new discovery, though: Paul pointed this out centuries ago, when talking about the influence of false teachers.
Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.”
1 Corinthians 15:33 NLT
While parents may cite the practical consequences of having unprincipled friends (like going to jail, or following a life of crime), Paul’s quote here2 mentions the more fundamental harm: the damage to our character. As our character is corrupted, the outcome of our choices and our actions are driven farther and farther from the righteous ideal that Jesus modeled for us. This has its own set of negative results for us, and usually for those around us.
Here, surrounding ourselves by the harmful flames of destructive behaviors and evil influences results in our becoming distasteful to not only society, but also to a holy God. We are like brownies that were placed into a smelting furnace, burned to a cinder and not good for anything except to be thrown out (like the un-salty salt that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:13).
Conversely, surrounding ourselves with good counsel provides us an opportunity to be wise, as passages like Psalm 37:30-31 and Proverbs 13:20 remind us. However, as I searched the scriptures for imperatives to surround ourselves with good friends or fellow Christians, another instruction seemed to surface more often than this advice: remaining in the fellowship of God.
The book of 1 John mentions this concept multiple times, but here’s one example:
And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.
1 John 5:20 NLT
Our path to living as God intended isn’t just about having the right friends and reading the right books. It is not achievable unless we are walking with God, Himself.
This is the fundamental difference between the message of Jesus and so many other beliefs: while God is holy and perfect, He is not some aloof rule-giver and sin-punisher, merely spelling out the definition of right and wrong and then enforcing the consequences of breaking the rules. Instead, He wants to have a relationship with us, leading us to a better life that He mapped out; one that is aligned with His righteous nature and the life that He designed for us to live.
God’s instructions lead to better relationships – friendships, family bonds, and a connection with Himself – when we follow them. His personal guidance takes us on a path closer to Him, to know more of His unending glory and infinite wisdom. When we spend time with Him, we become like the perfectly-warmed brownie, attractive to others both inside and out.
As a result, may we not limit our contact with God to just one “side” of our life. If God is just one facet of our days, we are like brownies being cooked on just one side, and remaining runny and gross on the others. When we are immersed in God, and let the Holy Spirit guide us from the inside as well, we finally start to see the “recipe” that God had for us all along. This constant contact with God includes private times of praying to Him and listening to (or reading) His words to us, but it also involves walking and talking with Him in our daily activities. Just as two people in love may spend time together on dates, as well as serving together in community activities, our relationship with God can be active in everything that we do.
May each of us find our perfect recipe in a relationship with God today.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- You can see the product at http://www.bakersedge.com/product_ebp.html. I don’t get any commissions for their product, but at least you can see what I’m talking about. ↩
- While Paul appears to be quoting a Greek (i.e., not necessarily “Christian”) poet here, the truth of this statement was not discovered by the Greeks. In his commentary, Matthew Henry cites Proverbs 13:20, which communicated a similar principle centuries before ↩