Can We Judge a Man by the Company He Keeps?

Prince Andrew has been in the public eye a lot this week for the friends that he keeps, with a number of them being deemed as unsuitable company for one who is a royal and the UK’s special representative for international trade and investment. There may have been no suggestion of impropriety, but that fact that such characters are listed as amongst his friends has caused concern. He is not alone in this; with over the last few years numerous friendships held by prominent politicians getting them into trouble.

There’s no getting away from the fact that who we spend time with says something about us and those we represent. There’s no doubt that spending time with a convicted sex offender puts across quite a different image from the one those who asked Prince Andrew to take on this role were looking for. Who we spend time with affects us too, why else would we so often counsel our children to choose their friends carefully. We all know someone who fell in with a bad lot and it changed their lives.

Of course, Prince Andrew was in a no win situation here. By not distancing himself from his friend and his misdemeanours, he has made himself vulnerable to such criticisms. However, if he had dropped this friendship simply because he was concerned about how it would look, then conceivably it wouldn’t be long before he was being accused of being heartless or cold and calculating!

From my point of view, I wonder who we are to be judging Prince Andrew and his friend. What do we know about either of them? It is so easy for us to make announcements when we live safely in obscurity, out of the headlines. I suspect quite a few of us would have family, friends and colleagues who could be described as dubious if they were scrutinised under the lens of the headline hungry media.

It may be that this relationship is no good for Prince Andrew and no good for his work, but at the end of the day it is for him and those he works for to make the required judgements. His story, however, does remind me of another prominent figure who got in trouble for his friendships, with accusations that the company he kept was not suitable for someone in his role and status. Who would trust a self-proclaimed public figure who counted amongst his friends workers in the sex industry, fraudulent civil servants and those of dubious or even extreme political views. Perhaps as Christians we should be judged by the bad friends that we keep, not the good ones…

Church Newsletter Article for Sunday 13th March, 2011

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