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Understanding True Friendship

Ever had that “friend” who just didn’t know when to not make an embarrassing comment toward you under the worst possible circumstances? No, Jeff, I would say. I don’t want you making fun of my job and income whenever we’re around attractive women in order to make yourself seem more appealing. Sorry for not making that clearer, friend. No, really, I’m into girls too. Yes, and actually having a chance with one would be great. Thanks, dog. *Fist pound*

What about the guy who becomes such a good “buddy,” that he not only feels entitled to borrow your stuff without asking, but without returning it either? I didn’t see my VCR for a month, which means I didn’t see TV for a month, since the VCR acted as the cable tuner to our dinosaur TV set. Thanks, “buddy.

People honestly drive me nuts. Flaky, obnoxious, selfish, thoughtless, dim-witted, foolish, shallow and sometimes downright mean. Hopefully I’ll only change with time, and I hope and pray to God the same for others, so that I don’t have to live with any more people like myself running around in society. I have been both the good friend and the bad friend in my life. I have been the victim-friend and the perpetrator-friend. We all have.

I’ve been blessed with some pretty interesting relationships throughout my experience in this world so far (not that I’ve been to other worlds, yet—just trying to sound fancy). And through it all, I think God was always trying to teach me a common thread: how to drink beer through a hat. No, wait, that was my friend Gabe.

I have been through some crazy experiences. I have had some crazy friends, and I have done some crazy things. I have my fair share of regrets and failures, and a modest portion of fond memories and successes to go with it. There are times when I wondered how God could love me, and there are times when I wondered how I could love anyone, including myself. But that is the language God is always speaking—and always teaching: love. However, sometimes we can become so blind to God’s true heart that we take it upon ourselves to completely rid our lives of certain people who are … well, like us.

We’re sinners, and we don’t like that. We don’t like what we see in ourselves. And we especially don’t like what we see in others. But, we have just enough patience to put up with ourselves, don’t we? Not so much with others. In fact, when I see a fraction of some of the ugliness that I have in me in another person, I tend to begin my human habit of self-righteously judging them, whether even realizing it or not sometimes.

I find it funny now that some of my biggest regrets have to do with decisions that at the time I thought were spiritually right. But, God seemed intent on showing me otherwise. For instance, because I had worldly friends, I guess I thought that I needed to find new ones—you know, people “not of this world.” But where would I find those? Perhaps on another planet … I don’t know, because I didn’t find any in church, either. But, God did bring new faces into my life through it. And initially I remember thinking that God had in a sense blessed me with replacements. Wow, can you believe I just admitted that.

Yes, my new Christian friends that I had just met through my new Christian church were going to make my life more spiritually convenient and stable now. They looked and sounded almost exactly like my old friends, except you know, without all the excess sin and troublesomeness of an “overly flawed” nature. I don’t know that my expectations were exactly that unrealistic, but ideally my life was now beginning to abound with the “things of God.” Little did I know, it always was.

Confucious, the ancient Chinese philosopher, once said, “Have no friends not equal to yourself.” This is something I took into great consideration. Not the things that Confucious said, because I just looked that up on the Internet, but the Biblically supported idea of bearing an equal spiritual yoke with your partners. I knew intimately all about how people can so easily bring each other down. It had played out first-hand for me over and over again. I kept making the same mistakes, while traveling round and round in the same circles. And my worldly friends were not helping out with my worldly ways—unless you mean by cheerleading for my bad side.

The problem, however, still always remained that I was the one responsible for my own behavior. So, when my new Christian friends came along, it did in fact make my Christian walk easier. But, it didn’t change my inner character. That one, I’m still learning, is a long and arduous road. Plus, after settling deeper into my new circle of friends, I realized that each one of them had just as many issues as my old friends.

However, there was a vast difference in the dynamic between my Christian and non-Christian friends, which was fellowship. Like iron sharpening iron, our hearts were in love with God and we ended up learning all kinds of new things from one another. My new “spiritual social life” was incredible. And after a short while, I moved into a small apartment across town with some of the guys. It ended up being a fun and beautiful arrangement for nearly a year, but then came a dry season. All in the same week, three out of four of us happened to lose our jobs, and we all scattered back home.

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We didn’t see much of each other over the course of the following year, except for a few get-togethers and church. I felt like God had placed me into a time of solitude for whatever reason, maybe to speak to me in ways that He couldn’t within my daily madness of the constantly, animated living environment of my apartment. Then my two very best friends of several years, who had barely been a part of my life lately, were thrust back into my life—one of them because he had just found out that he was becoming a new daddy and moving out-of-state for work, and the other because he was moving back home to go back to school.

During this time, bonds were reformed and given new life as I began to see them differently, and it altered how importantly I treated them. I used to think to myself, Man, if you could just get your act together with God, we’d be able to hang out so much more. Looking back, it was selfishness on my part because I was not concerned with being Christ-like in the sense of just loving my friends and caring about them unconditionally. I was obviously more interested in how they affected my imaginary level of “Christ-likeness.”

I was done playing it safe. I felt God’s burden for my friends. I knew that He loved them so much, and wanted to share it through me—and not by me preaching at them or trying to help them reach my supposed level of spiritual existence, but instead, through good old-fashioned love. No strings. No expectations. Just friendship. And what opened up as a result were opportunities to share that love in ways I had never previously considered. It gave me a brand new set of eyes to view the world with. I’ve always known that God loves us all, but all too often, I allowed sin to be a hindrance to that love.

I still hang out with my Christian friends, and I still hang out with my “worldly” friends. Some people might call that foolish, I call it simply spending time with the people that I adore, while trying my best to consistently and accurately represent Christ, no matter where I am or whom I’m with. It’s not always easy. I fall on my face more than anyone I know. Fortunately, God is patient with me, just as He is with my friends.

I believe the enemy wants us to misinterpret God’s Word and separate ourselves from our Creator’s beloved creation. As a Church, it’s time that we begin integrating ourselves back into society. We have good friends out there waiting to be embraced by God’s heart through our own. Love is the language. Love is the weapon. Love is what transforms. Love will be the revolution.

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