Paul says (Romans 12:2), “Be not conformed to this world,” and John says (1 John 2:15): “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Now, I am well aware that there is a line of distinction between the world and disciples of Christ; but just where, in all cases, I do not know. For instance, there is here in Midway a baseball club, and they meet Saturday evenings to play. I do not belong to the club, though I have played a few times, and I find it excellent to develop one’s muscles. For no other purpose would I participate. It has its evil associations; but they play here in town, so there is very little ungentlemanly behavior. Now, do I cross the bounds of a Christian life when I share the sport with them? Am I “conformed to this world” in so doing?
We were never in a baseball club, and know but little about them, but suppose the right or the wrong would depend largely upon the sort of people that compose them and the manner in which they are carried on. If decent, well-behaved young men that are most of their time confined to indoor work, as clerks, get together occasionally and in a gentlemanly manner, so that nothing improper shall be said or done while the game is going on, we do not see that there would be any more harm in that than in the jovial running on, extravagant talking and laughing, and slang style that is usually indulged in by young people when they are together. But where wicked, profane, and obscene young men get together in such plays, we think Christians should keep out of them; and not only out of such plays with young men of that character, but Christians ought as far as possible to keep out of the society of such men at all times, except to endeavor to teach and influence them to better things. Just simply as a matter of pastime, Christians should not associate with such people. Their own morals will be corrupted by such association. Every child of God should be striving every day not only to grow better himself, but to make others better, to exert an influence over all around for good. But there is a lack among the members of the church in these matters when with the wicked, the vulgar, and the rude. Instead of exerting an influence over them for good, they are too apt to partake with them in their wild ways, rather than so act as to win others from their folly. We think whether a young man who is a member of the church should play in a baseball club, or others of a similar character, or not, should depend upon his own character as much almost as theirs. If he can go among them and improve them by his association with them, he might without impropriety go among them, and might even, do good in so doing.
But if a Christian is disposed to love wild company himself and to fall into the habits of the low and vicious, then for his own sake he had better stay entirely away from evil influences. A Christian should be careful never to go into any societies unless he can either receive good from them or impart good to them. If no good is to result either way, then make that a reason for staying away. Nothing is more blighting to a Christian’s character than evil association, unless he has strength enough in himself, derived from God’s divine appointments, to overcome the evil. If he is weak enough for the worldly influence to overcome him, he had better always keep away from them. Before a young Christian goes into a baseball club, or any other social club, he should consider first whether he be able to resist any bad influence any association with them might bring upon him and come out unscathed. In the next place, he should consider whether he is able to exert any good influence upon them that will have any tendency to elevate them and turn their attention in any wise to the religion of Christ or not. If he decides that the character of those persons is such that they are beyond the reach of good influences, he should keep away from them.
Elisha G. Sewell