Proverbs 18:24 - A man who has friends must himself be friendly,[a]But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Most of us will remember the popular U.S sitcom, F.R.I.E.N.D.S, that took the T.V world by storm in the 90′s and early 2000′s. Rachel, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler, Ross and Monica entertained millions of viewers across the globe for several years.
There were many reasons why that sitcom was so successful but I dare say one of those reasons is that it resonated with the one of the deepest longings of every human being, which is to fellowship with others. Deep down inside, we all want to be known, accepted and loved by our fellow man or woman. It’s absolutely normal.
We were made for fellowship. First with God and then with our fellow humans. No one was built for isolation. That is why when prison wardens want to break the most hardened criminals, they usually resort to prolonged periods of isolation as effective means of torture. It is inhumane to be isolated. It truly is.
So if God has created us in such a way that we need each other to thrive, then His Church should surely be a safe haven where such relationships can be grown and fostered in an atmosphere of love, truth and safety right? I’m afraid this is not necessarily the case.
Unfortunately, the Church, which is supposed the be the visible representation of Christ to the world is not always the safest place to be in terms of cultivating friendships. I have seen and personally experienced far too many instances where instead of comforting or counselling a hurting individual confidentially, friends betray the trust of those who confided in them and unwittingly set off a gossip chain that ends up worsening the situation.
Sometimes friends judge a situation from a distance rather than draw closer to the hurting individual to find out how best they can show the love of Christ to their fellow brother or sister.
Sometimes friends take sides even without making a genuine effort to gain a balanced view of whatever took place in an individual’s life.
Sometimes friends are quick to hand out prescriptions and formulae of how they think situations should have been handled by the hurting person, without empathizing with the complexity and uniqueness of the situation in question.
Sometimes friends enjoy using sensitive information as discussion material amongst themselves, not to edify anyone but just for the entertainment value it brings.
Sometimes friends exclude hurting friends from their little cliques because they would rather maintain their perfect little happy circles than risk bringing in anyone who might disrupt that circle with their sad story.
I could go on and on but you get the picture. Many individuals have left the faith because they were let down by those who were supposed to be their friends. Those who were supposed to be modelling the unfailing friendship of Christ.
Many have been disillusioned by the disparity that exists between the kind of love Christ commanded us to share with one another and what really happens in some churches today. We have to realise that our actions have far deeper consequences than we may think.
As believers, we are always held to a higher standard than what is required of the world. With a perfect role-model like Christ, why do we struggle as believers to be better friends? Selfless friends? Loving friends? Faithful friends?
It is because we are all work in progress. We are all being sanctified by the Spirit of God and are going from glory to glory. Whilst we should not condemn ourselves for our shortcomings in this area, we must continually aspire to be the best friends we can be to our fellow brothers and sisters. We must aim to be a friend like Christ.
To those who have been hurt and let down by their friends, I pray you will find it in your heart to forgive. Understand that your friend(s) is not perfect and do your part to have that friendship restored.
To those who have let their friends down, I pray you will receive grace and courage to make amends by acknowledging your failure and asking for forgiveness. Don’t condemn or beat yourself up indefinitely. There is grace available for you.
Let us all take our friendships more seriously because the world is watching to see if we practise what we preach. It is also imperative because God requires that we love one another. This is how we will build each other up and advance the Kingdom of God.
Rather than spreading GOSSIP, let’s spread the GOSPEL. The Church should be a safe haven where those who are hurting can run to. Where they can share their pain and expect to still be loved unconditionally.
John 15:12-15 - 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.