Friendship with others

Rewarding Christian friendships are those permeated with God. While there is great diversity in how these friendships operate, the values should always be Christ centered and reflect our relationship with God. However, we live in an age of compromise where believers are often encouraged to look and sound like the world in hope of being accepted. James spoke to this; whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4). While some think these are harsh words, it remains true that out of fear of loosing friends and positions of earthly benefit, believers are tempted to sacrifice friendship with God in favour of friendships with worldly values.
Job, who understood the loss of friendships better than most (Job 1-2), connects the quality of earthly friendship with the character of a person’s friendship with God. Job 6:14 says, he who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. Here, it’s the absence of kindness that displays the absence of fear/respect of God. This makes sense because loving mercy are intrinsic to the nature of God. Therefore, a child of God, born again by the Holy Spirit, should increasingly grow in loving kindness (Gal 5:22-23). And the friends of that believer should experience those growing qualities.

When Jesus delivered the demon possessed man who lived among the tombs, Jesus sent him on the most amazing yet simple mission. Obviously, this man was grateful, and I’m sure we can understand why the delivered man begged him (Jesus) that he might be with him. But Jesus had a much greater and more personable plan for him. So, Jesus did not permit him but said to him, go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you. (Mark 5:19). Apart from anything else, Jesus knew this man would have wanted his friends to experience the Lord’s mercy as he had. Plus, this man had what it took to unashamedly declare the deity of Jesus who is Lord over demons. As this freed man gave his best when speaking of Jesus, so our friends should receive the best of Jesus when with us.

The fact is, this delivered man did such a good job that when Jesus visited the region of the Decapolis… they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him (Mark 7:31-32). Despite Jesus having never visited this Gentile area before, people knew how to recognise and respond to Jesus when He arrived. The delivered man had done a brilliant job of telling his friends about Jesus.

When the apostle Paul wrote from his first Roman imprisonment to the church at Philippi, it was a passionate expression of an uncommon friendship. Despite great distance, and the lack of fast communication, the believers at Philippi were effective at showing their love for Paul. They expressed partnership with Paul which produced joy (Php 1:4-5). Paul replied with encouraging words, and words of assurance (Php 1:6), words of affection (Php 1:8), and words of exhortation (Php 1:9-11).

These are all key elements in a healthy Christian friendship. Rather than sit disgruntled while chained to a Roman soldier, Paul wrote uplifting words for the benefit of his recipients. Paul’s words communicated an uncommon love which inspired the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Php 1:11). May the grace of God increasingly manufacture these qualities in our friendships also?

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