Confessions II.iii(8) – II.x(18)
This lengthy portion of book II of Augustine’s Confessions covers much information. Any number of these sections of book II could be made into one longer essay. However, I have noticed an overarching theme here: friends. It is here, also, that we encounter the great pear controversy of Augustine’s young life. Telling the story of a time when he and his friends went out into the night with the sole intention of causing trouble. They came across a pear tree and stole many of the pears. He writes that “I picked solely with the motive of stealing” (Chadwick, ed. 31) and “my feasting was only the wickedness which I took pleasure in enjoying” (31). He further elaborates that, were he alone, he would not have committed such a crime. Rather, his “love in that act was to be associated with the gang in whose company [he] did it” (33). He ends book II with a comment that “friendship can be a dangerous enemy, a seduction of the mind lying beyond the reach of investigation” (35).
Augustine is anything but shy to admit the depth of his own depravity and his love for sin the natural state. But, he gives us a keen insight into the nature of something further: the influence of community. The power of friendship is a profound power indeed. Those whom we allow into the more intimate places of our lives can exert great influence upon us. They can be a strong power for ill and for good. Augustine experience the pull of sinful companions. He did not pull them up, but they pulled him downward. I believe we all sense the pressure in being the “odd man out” in social circles. We must heed the confessions of Augustine and seek those companions who desire godliness and holiness. We ought to pray that we would not bring others down into folly and sin, but be brought up by others who seek his face.
May God be gracious to us all and provide godly men and women to pull us up and who are grounded firmly not to be pulled down.