Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Joy of True Friendships

Over the last two blogs, we have highlighted some of the difficult things that can happen in life concerning friendships. First, it is a reality of life that some friends will walk away from their professed faith for a number of reasons. Secondly, we touched on the fact that Satan seeks to attack and separate true friends, and that we should be overly sensitive to the impact sin can have and protective of our friendships in the body of Christ.

But rather than running the risk of sounding too negative, we will end this three part series on a much more positive note – the value of godly friendship.

There are very few things in life that are more valuable than true godly friendship. The Ancient Proverbs says that “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Prov. 17:17). It is true that the most meaningful friends are the ones that last through the hardships and triumphs of life, friendships that are based on mutual respect, forgiveness, companionship, trust, and love. A friend is one who can see you for who you really are, ugly warts, sin, and all – and still love you and stick with you no matter what.

These are rare jewels. Rare finds. But the truest friendships are nothing short of miraculous blessings from God. They are relationships that span distances and time. For example, I have some friends in far away places that I haven’t seen in years, but in picking up the phone, we can have a profoundly direct and weighty conversation and can achieve a level of depth almost instantly whereby there is immediate connection, empathy, and mutual understanding. You can be yourself and share your true feelings without being judged or misunderstood. And the encouragement, affirmation, accountability, and affection shared has a way of nourishing the soul instantly.

Your true friends are the ones that are quick to forgive and are not simply in the relationship for what they can get out of it. They aren’t simply sponges, but are those who are committed to giving generously with the primary motive of love. In this way, it is definitely true that the richest and purest friendships on earth are those that are shared between Christians. For the foundation of such friendships is the love of God, the One who has truly defined love for us.

There is an openness and honesty within a great friendship. I recently had a friend tell me that when he talks to me he doesn’t feel like he has to be “on his game” but can actually let his guard down and just be himself, relaxed and transparent. That was such a compliment to me. And the feeling is mutual. I can laugh and make mistakes in front of this friend and he will love me just the same – a true brother. I praise God for him.

It is true that each one of us will at some point be required to give an account of himself to God (Rom. 14:12). And one of the ways that God prepares us for that is by giving us friends here and now to which we can give an account. Like iron sharpening iron, an accountability partner or friend is a must for anyone who wants to live a godly life that pleases God. In this way, the wisdom of Ecclesiastes is put into practice. For Solomon wrote,

ECC 4:10 If one falls down,his friend can help him up.But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him 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.

Indeed, Christians must have accountability relationships and friendships. But in order to have such a friend, you must first begin by having a willingness to be such a friend. You have to be willing to open your life and heart to someone else. You must learn the value of and practice unconditional love, selfless giving, and humility yourself. If you do this, you will find that you will acquire a great many friends, ones that will last a lifetime. And you will be best prepared to be the kind of friend that people want.

Speaking metaphorically, Aristotle said that a friend is like “a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” I like that picture, for it shows how yoked together two friends really are. “Soul mates” as we would say.

Commit yourself to being the kind of friend that somebody would want to have. Loyal, true, open, honest, with a true servant's heart -- full of love. As you walk with the Spirit, you will overflow with God’s love and this will enrich your relationships. In fact, you will see the quality of your friendships increase, and the numbers thereof as well. Therefore, the depth of your relationship with God will directly impact the quality of the friendship that someone may find in you.

God truly blesses Christian friendships. May you find this to be true in your life as you walk with the Lord this Christmas season. Hold on to your friends. Love them unconditionally, and in doing so you, yourself will be blessed.

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