Yesterday an unusual cold snap hit Kyrgyzstan for this time of year. The middle of May is nearly always very warm — not so yesterday. My friend Sofia, also chilly, said, “Let’s have some cocoa!” I readily agreed. Hot chocolate is always especially good on a cold day.
She prepared the hot milk on the stove and added the cocoa and sugar. Then she poured the steaming liquid into our waiting mugs. Ummm, delicious from the first sip. I said to Sofia, “I have a friend who likes to put a sprinkle of red pepper in her hot chocolate.” Immediately Sofia stood to go and get the red pepper. She was anxious to try something new.
We each took a pinch of the pepper between our thumb and forefinger, dropped it into our chocolate, and stirred. Did it change the taste? Yes, there was the slightest taste of the hot spice. It was only the smallest pinch but it had made a difference.
Do you know what came to my mind? I thought about what Paul said in his letter to the churches in Galatia. He was trying to warn them to be very careful concerning their faith. Faith is a fragile thing and must be cared for and nurtured in order for it to grow and stay strong. In Galations 5:9, Paul addresses the issue of who we spend our time with and who we listen to, taking their words to heart. He says this, “But it takes only one wrong person among you to infect all the others — a little yeast spreads quickly through the whole batch of dough!” How true! Like red pepper changed the taste of our chocolate, yeast completely changes the consistency of flour. Likewise, false words, bitter words, gossiping words, negative words, these can all infect us, zapping away our joy in the Lord, and weakening our faith.
Whenever I have opportunity, I especially like to warn young people to be careful who you chose for your friends. By that, I mean those with whom you share your heart and from whom you would take advice, and value their opinions. Make certain it is someone likeminded in the Lord as you are; someone who desires to grow in the things of Jesus as you do. If you add someone who is not walking godly into your intimate circle, the Scripture warns, you are in danger of being infected in your inner spirit. It just takes a few negative words to sow bitterness. It takes just a few words of gossip to cause us to think less of someone than we ought to.
One bad apple really can make the whole bunch rot. Be careful. Guard your faith. Guard your hearts as it says in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.”