real friends

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

Friendship that is utilitarian, just “what I can get out of it” is no friendship at all. True friendship is being there and committed to another person, no matter what. I have found it quite rare. You find that true on both ends. When you extend friendship to others, you might find that it’s conditional, that if somehow you don’t measure up, your friendship is no longer valued. The same is true for those who seem to extend the hand of friendship. Yet when they really get to know you, that hand is withdrawn or gone.

Instead, the wisdom of Proverbs speaks here of a friend who sticks closer than a brother. It’s not like we can be close friends to everybody. But when we develop a closeness in friendship with anybody, we need to stay true to that, insofar as the circumstances of life allow for such. And when friends let us down, we know that ultimately the Lord never does. Still we want to be a needed friend as well as have the friend or few friends we too need. Something rare indeed, something we look for. In and through Jesus.

friends

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

They say women are better than men at relationships and specifically– friendship, and I partly believe it. To think through friendship a little, it might be good to give some definitions or descriptions.

Relationship is how we relate to each other, what kind of communion or fellowship there might be in that. Friendship is a bond people have in which they have something in common, and just seem to get along well with each other.

To be friendly is what ought to characterize people everywhere, though in this broken world one has to be on guard, particularly for children. Maybe we get so used to the guarded reserve around us, we carry that too much everywhere we go. Many of us too are introverts, so that we would just as soon remain to ourselves in quiet and peace.

It is interesting how some of us have a special bond in which our personalities seem to mesh well. A word here to those who are married: Whatever special bond you do have will be tested simply because of the fact that both of you are sinners. You’ll have to work through your problems, be sorry and work on change when you hurt each other, and be committed in that way to each other. Other friends don’t have the weight of living with the other 24/7.

There is no doubt that we need friends. Maybe that’s in part why people are on social media all the time, which actually does not lend itself well to being friends, and actually hurts real friendship in the process. Do I need to mention people together wherever, looking at their cell phones?

Loyalty through thick and thin is what will characterize a true friend. They are there regardless, and you are there for them regardless of what they might be going through.

God made us for communion and fellowship, yes, even friendship with God, and with each other. We need not despise or set aside a friendship which seems weak and lacks depth. Maybe it will grow. People need friends, and a little bit of friendship can go a long way at times. There are those friendships which seem special, with a depth to them to which there seems to be no end. Just a glimpse of what in large part we were made for, and what will be completely fulfilled someday in and through Jesus.

faith as allegiance

I am more than a little bit averse to easy constructs in theology to describe the whole of what is going on in scripture in the story of God. But I ran across a post, worth the read, which I think provides a good summary of one important aspect of faith, from a scholar, Matthew Bates. I wish he would describe things more in a way which puts the cookies on the lower shelf. If you read him, you may have to use a dictionary and work at thinking through what he is saying, which really is not a bad exercise in itself. Here are three points Scot McKnight draws out of Bates’s thoughts about what faith is:

  1. Mental affirmation/intellectual agreement: certain enough to yield.
  2. Professed fealty to Jesus as Lord (Rom 10:9-10).
  3. Enacted loyalty to the king, as in the obedience of faith.

I do think this point made of scripture making faith to be at its very basic, allegiance, does reflect what scripture actually teaches when one considers faith in the context of Jesus, and again, the post admirably sets that forth. I also want to see faith as somehow basically family-oriented, in that we are children of God through faith in Jesus, and that the faith of a little child is required, if one is to enter into the kingdom of God. So yes, allegiance to King Jesus the Messiah, as Lord, but also faith within the context of family, as God’s children. Of course we need scripture to fill out all the parameters of what allegiance to Jesus and living as God’s children in God’s household means.

Faith as allegiance to Jesus as Lord, and trust in God as Father is important in becoming our orientation in the rough and tumble of everyday living. We do things not out of some personal, self-centered goal, nor thinking that it ultimately depends on us. Instead we do everything out of loyalty to Christ, trusting in the Father to bring good out of everything, and to meet all of our needs together with others. All of this in and through Jesus.

loyalty for the sake of the gospel

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus,because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.

2 Timothy 1:15-18

The distinguishing mark of the Christian is loving one another, not being “right,” not even being holy, although a central part of true holiness is this distinctive love in Jesus. And it’s a love which embraces even enemies. But might have to expose those who are doing harm to others, especially with reference to the faith of the gospel.

In the Apostle Paul’s last letter, he noted what the NIV‘s heading calls “Examples of Disloyalty and Loyalty.” In Paul’s case, he was so closely aligned to the gospel, that loyalty to Paul meant loyalty to the gospel which for him was front and center, always, in terms of both his message and his very life. Paul became all things to all people so that by all possible means, he might save some. And that he did for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9).

We might define loyalty as being present for someone first of all, because like us, they are human, and made in God’s image. And then also, doing so for the sake of the gospel. And that presence being in terms of being for them. This will sometimes involve forgiving, which we all need at times, and sometimes we won’t be able to do anything more than pray for them, which after all, is the greatest thing we can do for each other.

Loyalty is important, and actually like God in that the God who is Love, pledges God’s Self to humankind, that pledge being covenantal in God actually becoming one of us in the Son, and taking upon himself the evil of humanity, to free humanity from that evil. God’s loyalty to us plays out in all kinds of ways. Like in the case of Cain before he murdered his brother Abel, God faithfully warned Cain, and tried to call him into his blessing (Genesis 4). As it ended up, God did not even prevent Cain’s murder of faithful Abel, which seems more than a bit of a mystery in our eyes, although we too easily get used to such, so that we can become jaded. But we have to look at the bigger picture, and accept the fact that God is faithful and loyal, and that we are called to that same loyalty.

I don’t believe people, including too many Christians are all that loyal in the way described above. Too often we divide along the lines of politics, which can seem to be as divisive as in the days of the American Civil War, when in some cases, brothers in the same family fought on different sides. We divide or simply become disloyal for a whole host of other reasons. When I find something of that in another, I find something that is lacking, period. If I see something like that in myself, I see something that needs confession, repentance, and prayer. We are loyal to others for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. And we are in need of that same loyalty ourselves.

I lose faith in the kind of Christianity which can cut another off, or doesn’t find room to include them. After that, I have a hard time receiving from such a source. We must always live and breathe and think and pray in terms of this loyalty derived from the God who is Love, and grounded in the gospel, the good news which is in Jesus. I believe when people do this, whoever they are, they actually need to repent and get back to the true basic, the covenantal love of God in the gospel. That is the one fellowship or communion which will last, and through which we seek to embrace everyone, even our enemies, in the same way which we ourselves have been embraced, in and through Jesus.

the unreal world of social media

I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Writing is something many of us do who are online, whether with our own blog, Twitter, Facebook, or something of the like. And sharing back and forth, or seeking to communicate that way can be good. Words can open up the world, even bring us into a new world. Witness scripture itself, par excellence for that.

Yesterday I felt abandoned and alone. But late in the day, mid afternoon, I was able to work with a friend, and we had good interactive fellowship with each other. My heart was turned from near despair in stone cold to peace and joy. Hopefully my friend was encouraged as well, not that he needed that in the way I did at the time.

There is no substitute for face to face interaction. For committed friendship to each other. And for us in Jesus, all of that in and through him.  Just to be in each other’s presence in grace with full acceptance of each other. Along with openness for all kinds of interaction, including the need sometimes for correction, or input to help us on our journey. I would rather have one true friend than one thousand “friends” on social media. Actually there can be some good occurring along those lines on social media, but we need each other right where we live.

Any church which has any degree of spiritual health will value relationships. They really need to go beyond friendly chit chat. There needs to be a commitment to each other in the Lord. For better or for worse, even outside the bonds of marriage. Of course we have to exercise caution and wisdom with those of the opposite sex. We need plenty of wisdom in friendships. But this should be a priority in our lives.

 

 

the Winter blues

Actually we’ve barely moved into Winter, on the calendar only have begun. Perhaps it’s a combination of cold weather (though it has been unseasonably warm) and the end of Advent which has got me. Although we still do have one last Christmas Sunday coming. But this is the time of the year, I think, when more suicides occur, and more heart attacks as well. Allegedly, more loneliness.

Perhaps that makes it a good time to reflect all the more on what our hope actually is. It is not in the things of this life, nor in any of the entities of this life which people often put so much of their faith in and hope on. Even though these may have their place and indeed be helpful. Whatever good we receive is from the good hand of God, who may use these things.

But most important we need to draw near to God, to seek God, to make every effort to find our rest in him. For me I might recite a psalm I know such as Psalm 23. I do practice reciting repeatedly during a day both the “Jesus Creed” and “the Lord’s/our Father prayer.” I find these helpful in keeping me centered on what’s important in our calling in Jesus. And they can be helpful in seeking to draw near to God.

And we need friends. It is always helpful to find a true, loyal friend, one to whom we can listen, and who will listen to us. Friends who no matter what, like each other, or even during possibly unlikable times remain loyal to each other.

Of course the church is the one entity we can return to again and again, in spite of us, we might say in spite of it, though we must remember for all its weakness and imperfection, it is the body of Christ.  And for those of us who have families such as spouses, we need to keep close and spend quality time which means quantity as well, with each other.

And so we want to shore up during times in which we may be more vulnerable to depression or inward struggle. We need to be present for and committed to each other. In Jesus together for the world.