What does it mean to be a friend?A happy, healthy, and fulfilled life must include friends. Some people have a propensity to make friends easily and therefore they have many who they count as close friends. Other dispositions are more reserved, carefully selecting only a few for their inner circle. Regardless of your personality, friends are an essential part of a Christian’s life. How do we know that? Because Jesus was our example. Jesus had much to do in his short 33 years of life, yet he took the time to make deep, personal connections with a group of men and women. He spent his last years bonding with his friends as they walked and talked, as they sang, and ate. He loved them, cared for them, taught them, and inspired them. He admonished them, challenged, and encouraged them. We know that he would often be astounded by them and was occasionally disappointed with them, but was a loyal companion throughout. What might we learn from his example and other inspirations from God’s word?
Friends tell it like it is (even when we don’t want to hear it). Jesus was on mission for God and his disciples signed up for the trip. It hadn’t been easy and things were about to get much worse. Jesus shared with his friends some of what was to happen to him. He wanted to prepare them and no doubt, wanted their support as he neared the day he would be sacrificed. Peter; however, became angry and told Jesus, “Never, Lord.” Matthew even says Peter “rebuked” Jesus. Matthew 16:22-23 (NIV) “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’” Jesus knew that Peter was in the wrong, thinking of himself and not submitting to God’s will. Jesus also knew that Peter would struggle again with his own agenda and was trying to set him on the right path, the path of obedience that Jesus travelled. I have often thought how Jesus’ admonishment must have hurt Peter, yet he was aware that this was exactly what Peter needed to hear. He knew his friend well enough to know this wasn’t an isolated outburst and that if left unchecked, may lead to spiritual derailment. Do you have that type of relationship with your friends? Is your love deep enough to be able to share concerns, even if those concerns are difficult to hear? Do you accept and even encourage your friend’s transparency with you as well? Honesty in friendship is essential. True friendship provides the safety to share freely with the mutual goal of pleasing God through selfless living.
Be encouraged with Proverbs 27:5-6
Friends insist on doing the things that need to be done. John 13: 3-5 (NIV) “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” This gesture was so surprising that Peter, at first, said no! He should be washing Jesus’ feet and not the other way around! Jesus; however, wanted his friends to see that there was nothing he would not do for them and that even though he was God’s son (and the “Father had put all things under his power”), he would put their needs above his own. True friendships are the ideal place to show this kind of Christ-like humility. What do your friends need? We live in a world that encourages autonomy, independence, and self-reliance. That is not what Jesus modeled. He saw a need and addressed it. He didn’t wait. He got up from his meal and did the job. Real friends know each other well enough to see the need and love each other enough to stop what they are doing and help.
Friends always love. The first verse my youngest daughter committed to memory was Proverbs 17:17. “A friend loves at all times,” she would recite as she walked around the house. At only four, she epitomized childhood love and acceptance and fully believed in Solomon’s charge. On her last birthday, a lifelong friend gave her a handmade card that read, “from your one true friend.” However, later that year, this same friend decided to stop talking to her, cutting off all communication and even avoiding her at school. Do true friends really love at all times? The situation prompted a renewed discussion with our daughter about Proverbs 17:17. What do you do when a friend disappoints you (or you disappoint a friend)? Jesus provided countless examples of living Proverbs 17:17. He showed love, compassion, and loyalty beyond the grave to his friends, even with their many shortfalls. He continued to be in relationship, encouraging and directing, despite their confusion, their denials, and doubts. Do you have a friend that has disappointed you?Consider it a golden opportunity to model Christ in forgiveness and love? Don’t ever forget, love is what sets Christians apart. Love regardless of circumstance, hurt, or betrayal. Love is not just for our friends, but also our enemies. The next time a friend lets you down, love them anyway. The next time your heart is broken, mend it with unconditional love. Is this difficult? Incredibly difficult but also incredibly rewarding. Never forget, a friend LOVES at all times. John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Friends Affect Health! Did you know?A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. In 2008, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age. In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, attachment to a single person didn’t appear to affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease, but having friendships did. Only smoking was as important a risk factor as lack of social support. In 2008, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone. The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.
*Source NY Times
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)
9 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.
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