Thoughts On Friendship And Community…
(please click on the Scripture books/chapters/verses below to read the actual Biblical text)
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV).
Biblically, What Does It Mean To Be Someone’s “Friend”?
To tangibly, unconditionally, and sacrificially
think, speak, act and plan
primarily for the benefit of another.
What does this look like?
GIVING…giving, giving, giving…
1. Giving Them Your Time
Time is your most valuable and non-renewable resource. Money can be re-gained; time cannot. When we give time to someone we are sharing with them something precious, limited, personal–sharing time with others is a sturdy branch on the tree of love. God is just as concerned with how we use our calendar as He is with how we use our checkbooks.
Please click HERE for a short video on a “ministry of presence.”
2. Giving Them Your Undivided Attention
Focusing on them by listening, asking genuine questions, & empathising [i.e. trying to understand what they are feeling/where they are coming from]). Constantly multi-tasking with others does not make strong friendships over time; familiar acquaintances, perhaps, but not strong friends. No jury member in a courtroom would be allowed to listen to their mp3 and check email while listening to testimony and evidence. Fair and true verdicts require focus and concentration; so do strong friendships.
3. Giving Them Your Love
Not as a feeling/emotion but as a verb/decision–God doesn’t love us because we are lovable but because HE is love, because HE made the decision to bless and love us long before we were ever created (1 Timothy 1:9):
-Tangibly (not in vague ideas but in practical, real ways) putting the needs of others before your own needs/wants (not what can I GET from another but asking what can I GIVE);
-Practically showing (not just TELLING) others that they are important to you (and also important to God).
“If you were put on trial for being a Christian (a friend to God and a friend to others),
would there be enough evidence to convict you?” (unknown)
Lord Jesus, please forgive me for passing out Lincolns (pennies)
when You have filled me with the Benjamins of Your love and grace…
4. Giving Them Your Consistent Prayers
Lifting them up to the LORD God Almighty (Ephesians 6:18);
Realizing that there is only so much you can do for others with your hands
but that there is NO LIMIT to what God can do for them with His.
5. Giving Them Encouragement
Words (written, spoken, typed, etc.) that heal, inspire and equip people to continue to love Jesus and love others)
6. Giving Them Pursuit
Following-up with them (not only being there for them when they contact you)…God is the PURSUING GOD! He runs after us and chases us down, not to throw us in jail but rather to free us from the prison we are already in! He wants us to lovingly and relentlessly pursue others as well…
7. Giving Them Jesus
Introducing others to Him through the way we treat them…pointing them to Him, being His hands and feet in their lives [“we might be the only Bible someone ever reads”], giving off His aroma, etc. We hurt others when we only love for them for their 80-100 years on earth but neglect to use our words to introduce them to Jesus Who will love them for ETERNITY!
So What Then Is Christian Community?
Christian Community is having a group of friends meeting together regularly to practice and learn to display the characteristics above–i.e. learning how to be a friend both to God and to others (Hebrews 10:24-25).
So how many friends do you have like that above?
Even more humbling: how many people would say that you are a friend like that to them?
But let’s not get discouraged;
God knows that NONE OF US, on our own strength/”goodness”, can be a real friend.
But with God ALL things are possible!
Jesus was clearly a friend to everyone and even got in trouble for it from many of the religious leaders!
When was the last time we loved others so Biblically, so genuinely, so sacrificially that we got in trouble from Christians? WOW!
What was Jesus doing with people that got Him into so much trouble?
“Eating and drinking and associating with sinners” (Mark 2:16).
HE WAS SPENDING TIME WITH THEM!
-questioning (in a loving, gentle way)
-celebrating (wedding at Cana)
And all of this without compromising His identity and perfection;
all of this without changing His perfect beliefs;
all of this without deviating one inch/moment from the Father’s important mission
of sacrificing Himself for the sins of those who would receive His forgiveness!
What a lesson for us all!
We can love people without agreeing with them!
We can associate with people without condoning all of their actions!
We can be friends with people without compromising our friendship with Christ!
Biblical Examples of Friendship
1. Abraham towards Lot: Abraham risked his life to set Lot free from captivity (Genesis 14:1-16, especially verses 14-16); Abraham freely gave Lot first choice regarding the land he would settle in (Genesis 13:8-9); Abraham prayed powerfully and humbly for God to spare Sodom & Gomorrah (where Lot lived)(Genesis 19:29).
2. Joseph towards his Brothers (Genesis 50:14-21): Forgiving them, encouraging them and sparing their lives (grace and mercy!) when Joseph had the power to punish them severely, blessing them extravagantly, not only forgiving them for the past but inviting them into a future of reconciled friendship with him!
3. Ruth towards Naomi (Ruth 1:14-18): WOW! What friendship! What sacrifice! What love and dedication!
4. Jonathan towards David (1 Samuel 18:1-4): Pledging his undying support and friendship to David and then backing it up with actions!
5. Mary towards Jesus: quietly sitting and LISTENING to Him (Luke 10:39); washing His feet with her hair and life-savings (Luke 7:37-47; ; continuing to trust in Jesus even though her brother Lazarus died and Jesus arrived “too late” to prevent it from happening (John 11:1-44); continuing to trust in Him after He died by searching for Him at His tomb (John 20:1-18). Now THAT’S faith! THAT’S friendship with God!
So What Does This Require Of Us? How Can We Be A Friend Like This To God And To Others?
In a word, we need to re-evaluate if we are going to become a true friend to God and others.
1. Re-evaluate What It Means To Be A Christian (how much Jesus do you really want?).
-Do I believe in Jesus only for what He will give me? (Cosmic vending machine)
-Do I only allow myself to get close enough to Christ so that I can salvation/forgiveness but not close enough for Him to actually transform me? (As Vance Havner said, “Do you get close enough to the flames to get warm but not close enough to actually catch fire?”)
-Do I really want to KNOW God personally (John 17:3), or am I content with learning a few facts about God over the course of my earthly life? Do I really want the Holy Spirit to begin the major renovation/rehabilitation work in me so I can learn to be a true friend to others? Do I want to play it safe in the boat or will I accept Jesus’ invitation to walk on the water?
-If you have not received Jesus as your Savior, will you re-evaluate what you have always thought about Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity and go to the Bible to help you see Jesus as He is and not as you think He is?
2. Re-evaluate How We Spend Our Time.
Many of us are doing lots of GOOD things for God that keep us from doing GREAT things for Him.
-Why am I seemingly unable to develop truly deep friendships with others (Biblical definition, not our culture’s definition)? Why don’t I have time to radically love and pursue others?
-Do I need to watch so much t.v.?
-Do I need to workout so much?
-Do I need so many hobbies?
-Do I need to work so many hours? Is it to truly “make ends meet” or is it to maintain a standard of living that I desire?
-Am I working at my exhausting/time-consuming job because God has called me there or only because I make a lot of money there? (many of my friends in college were pre-med majors but NOT because they wanted to heal people! They wanted the status and the future income of being a doctor someday. MOST [90%] did not graduate pre-med!)
-Is the busyness of serving in a church ministry keeping me from truly loving and pursuing others? Is the busyness of doing tasks for God keeping me from knowing God and knowing others personally?
At Thanksgiving, there simply is not enough room in your stomach to eat as much as you want of all of the delicious options. Choices need to be made, portions need to be voluntarily curtailed.
In life, there simply is not enough time in a day, week, month, year, and lifetime to do ALL of the good things that you might be interested in doing, to participate as much as you want in all of the interesting options. At some point, choices need to be made, activities need to be voluntarily curtailed. Do you want to drink deeply of the BEST that Jesus offers, or do you want to sip at the fountain of the good? Will you choose to focus on activities that have only an EARTHLY or also an ETERNAL impact?
3. Re-evaluate Our Goals.
-What is on my bucket list?
-What do I hope to accomplish this week, month, year, decade?
-Are my goals largely focused on me…and specifically on the external? (bodily appearance, accumulation of things, career promotion, experiences like skydiving, travel locations, etc.)
-Do I have any “God-sized” dreams/goals, pursuits that I could NEVER accomplish on my own where I would therefore NEED God to make it happen?
-Am I willing to be part of God’s plan which is bigger than me and in which HE is the star?
-Am I willing to take responsibility for and repent of my “practical atheism” and begin learning to practically live each day as if I really believed that this life on earth IS NOT ALL THERE IS TO LIFE!?
4. Re-evaluate Our Utter Helplessness (i.e. our COMPLETE dependence on God to become a real friend to Him and to others)
-Am I willing to take responsibility for and repent of my subconscious belief that I can HANDLE life on my own, that I don’t need deep friendships, that I can be a real friend just by trying harder/educating myself/resolving to do so, that I can DO what Jesus invites me to do and that I can BECOME who Jesus invites me to be simply by trying harder?
-Choose to ask God for help each day to be a real friend to Him and all others! Choose to rejoice over our inability/weakness to do what God asks because when we are weak (realizing we NEED God and others) then we are strong (stepping into overwhelming situations out of love for Jesus and then watching Him, over time, do extraordinary acts of love through such ordinary people–US!)(Romans 12:7-10).
Friendship With God
Interestingly enough, the characteristics of Biblical friendship with others above are also the characteristics of Biblical friendship with God:
To tangibly, unconditionally, and sacrificially
think, speak, act and plan
primarily for the benefit of God (THY Kingdom come…).
So What Does This Look Like?
By GIVING…giving, giving, giving…
1. Giving Him Your Time
-Remembering what God has done in the Bible AND your life
-Looking ahead to what God promises to do
-Worshiping Him through music
2. Giving Him Your Undivided Attention
-Listening/Learning: Luke 10:38-42
3. Giving Him Your Love (Not A Feeling/Emotion But A Verb/Decision)
-Obedience: John 14:23-25
4. Giving Him Your Consistent Prayers
-Speaking AND listening to God: 1 Timothy 2:8; 367 times in the Bible. WOW.
5. Giving Him The Worship That He Alone Deserves
-Through actions of obedience (sacrificial acts of love toward Him and all others)(Romans 12:1)
6. Giving Him Pursuit:
7. Giving Him Yourself
Back To Ecclesiastes 4:9
Still don’t believe you need others in life? Well, let’s see what the Author of life says–looking at the verses at the top of those post, let’s see those who truly need friends:
1. Those who WORK (verse 9)
2. Those who SIN (verse 10)
3. When life is COLD (verse 11)
4. Those who are ATTACKED (verse 12) spiritually, physically, emotionally, financially, health-wise, etc.
I’m guessing that every person reading this is currently in AT LEAST one of those groups above…I know I certainly am…
“I [Jesus] no longer call you servants, but now I call you friends” (John 15:15).
What a gift! What a promise! What an offer!
Please accept Jesus’ eternal friendship today…His friend request is waiting in your inbox! He will call you “friend”…and He will then begin to remake you and transform you and teach you how to be one…