Friendship in the Bible (3)
With thanks to Cooper A. Abrams III for most points
“In October 1993, in the town of Worchester, MA, police found a
73-year-old woman dead on her kitchen floor.
She had died of natural causes, but this was not an ordinary
discovery. She had been dead for
four years before her body was discovered!
In some ways it was a mistake.
Four years earlier, neighbors had called the police expecting
something might be wrong.
When the police contacted the woman's brother, he said that she had gone
to a nursing home. The
police told the postal service not to deliver there anymore.
A neighbor paid a grandson to keep the lawn mowed.
Another neighbor called the utility company to cut off the water
when a frozen pipe broke and sent water spilling out the door.
In some ways, it was not a mistake, and shows how tragically
neighbors have grown apart in postmodern America.
Her brother reported that the family hadn't been close since
their mother died in 1979.
Then he added, 'Someone should have noticed something before now'”
(Larson). As sad as that
story is, here's another one that's just as sad.
It comes from some research about young people dropping out of
churches. It claims that
70% of America's youth drop out of the churches between the ages of
18-22. Why did they leave?
The top three reasons given were: Their faith was not the same as
that of their parents (in fact 47% of those interviewed stated that they
did not agree with the beliefs of their churches, and many of them never
understood they could serve and help others through their churches),
they saw hypocrisy in their homes (yes, parents attended church, but
they never discussed faith or offered spiritual guidance throughout the
rest of the week), and lastly there were changes in their life
situations (they went to college, they got a job, they devoted their
time to other personal interests).
Let me bring these stories together with this question: Could
members here at our congregation die spiritually, and we not know about
it until several years later when they ultimately vote with their feet
and not longer come to our doors?
If people are really our friends and out brother and sisters in
the Lord, we won't treat them with the neglect and indifference that we
saw the folks in that MA
We've been looking at friendship in several of our previous lessons.
We've seen how friends listen and protect, they care and
empathize, they share in our interests and live through all kinds of
experiences, they bring out our best and they build up our faith.
We want to conclude this series today by looking at four other
characteristics of friends: friend are loyal; friends are kind; friends
are truthful; friends are forgiving.
As we discuss each of these characteristics, let's do so with an
attitude that we'll work hard never to let anyone here in or church
family become a spiritual casualty!
The first characteristic again is friends are loyal.
They are loyal like Ruth was to Naomi.
Remember when Naomi decided to return to Israel after the losses
of her husband and sons in Moab during the years of a famine, she told
her daughters-in-law to return to their own families.
She saw them as still being able to find husbands, so she
encouraged them to forsake her and remain in their own culture.
Orpah decided to return and gave Naomi a farewell kiss, but Ruth
decided that she would stay with Naomi.
Naomi again urged her to leave, but Ruth responded with those
lofty words of 1:16-17: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back
from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever
you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your god,
my God. Where you die, I
will die, and here will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more
also, if anything but death parts you and me.”
Ruth's answer is a classic expression of loyalty.
She declares her devotion to Naomi and affirms her determination
to stay with Naomi, a loyalty that would be permanent, even if it meant
adopting a new culture! She
adopted the Jewish culture, worshiped Jehovah, and becomes the great
grandmother of one of Israel's greatest kings!
Friends are loyal, like Ruth was to Naomi.
In 1982, a survey of 40,000 Americans was made asking them, “What
qualities do you most value in a friend?”
There were three predominant answers: keeping confidences, being
warm and affectionate, and showing loyalty.
We show our loyalty to God by keeping His commandments (1 Kings
8:61), and we show our loyalty to others by sticking close to them no
matter what the circumstances (Prov. 18:24).
Our modern times make it hard to keep loyal to our friends.
Two authors made this interesting comment: “This sense of
transience [i.e. of moving all the time; it is the opposite of have a
sense of permanency where one lives in the same place with their
extended family] impacts how we view reality, our commitment to people,
and even ourselves. [People
sort of float in and out our lives, and we just can't seem to keep up
with them very easily.] We
no longer define ourselves in corporate terms.
We don't make decisions primarily on the basis of how other
people would be affected or how that would be beneficial for the group.
We belong to the 'me ' generation; we have entered the Age of
Individualism. We have
become a people who unconsciously evaluates every action primarily in
terms of how it affects self.
The people of the present no longer see themselves as a 'piece of
the continent' [as poet John Donne wrote 300 years ago].
Today, they take song-writer Paul Simon's line: 'They are rocks.
They are islands.' ... the Church is faced with teaching the 'me'
generation how to think in 'we' terms.
People born and reared in a culture that worships individualism
must now learn how to behave in a group—the Church . ... it is fair to
say that most people entering the Church today are simply not equipped
to think in group terms.
Dependency [is seen as] weakness; accountability [is seen as] slavery;
submission [is seen as] demeaning.
The very notion of denying self to promote the group is alien to
the modern mind. ... [Most members] still think in 'me' terms.
They make decisions and act not based on what is good for the
group, but on personal preference and values” (Woodruff/Hinkle).
In this kind of culture where all are thinking about “me and my
preferences,” maybe we see once more why a friend's loyalty is so
greatly valued because loyal friends are always thinking in terms of
“we” and go out of their way to show their support.
In Dec. 2006 LaDainian Tomlinson, running back of the San Diego
Chargers, carried the
football into the end zone for a record-breaking 29th
touchdown of the season.
But what happened after the run is what really gets our attention.
Instead of taking the glory for himself, he called all the
offensive linemen to come and join him around the goalpost to celebrate
together. Then, in the
interview following the game, he continued to include his teammates: 'We
made history today, and there's no better feeling than to share it with
that group of guys in that locker room (Larson -Elshof). Tomlinson's
behavior was rare—he was thinking “team” and letting others share in the
glory, and did you notice how he said “WE made history”?
What's the point?
When are we, as Christians, going to learn to show as much, if not more,
loyalty to other members on our spiritual team known as the church?
Would people find more loyalty to others in a locker room or in a church
building? Like Ruth, let's
think in terms of “we” or what is best for our whole church family, and
let's pledge ourselves to sticking close to one another day after day,
year after year, no matter what the circumstances—every member can count
on our devotion and our support—until we ourselves must bow out of the
game. Friends are loyal,
like Ruth was to Naomi.
Secondly, friends are kind, like David was to Jonathan.
The friendship of Jonathan and David is one of the greatest that
we find in the Bible. Saul
was jealous of the rising star David, but Jonathan became his steadfast
friend. In 1 Samuel 20, we
read how David informs Jonathan of his father's ill will towards him.
Jonathan says that he will feel his father out and then let David
know the score. They pledge
their kindness to each other's households, and they devise a plan so
that Jonathan will shoot arrows to give an indication—short shots will
mean that all is well and long shots will mean danger.
Jonathan almost lost his own life while discovering his father's
wrath. He shoots the arrows
long, and Jonathan weeps with David and tells him to depart in peace.
Saul continued to pursue David, and David continues to escape.
While David was on the run at one vital point, Jonathan finds
David. ! Sam. 23:16-18
reports: “Then Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David in the
woods and strengthened his hand in God.
And he said to him, 'Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father
shall not find you. You
shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you.
Even my father Saul, knows that.'
So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord, and David
stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house.”
Many years later after Jonathan's death and David has been made
king, he remembers the covenant hat he had made with Jonathan, and in 2
Samuel 9, we see how David takes in Jonathan's cripple son Mephibosheth
and allows him to eat at the king's table for the rest of his life!
What great acts of kindness we see in this friendship!
Oh, that our friendships could show such acts of kindness as well!
Proverbs 19:22 states: “What is desired in a man is kindness,”
and 1 Corinthians 13:4 explains: “Love suffers long and is kind.”
Surely, our experience with God's kindness in our lives should
motivate us to show kindness to others (Titus 3:4).
Kindnesses can be so powerful.
Did you hear about the motorist in Portland, OR who decided to
pay the drive-thru coffee shop not only for her mocha but also for the
driver behind her. Well,
the next driver was so delighted that they did the same thing for the
next customer behind them.
And this kindness was passed on for over two hours and 27 customers
(Larson-Elshof)! A little
kindness went a long way.
Here's another example: One of the professors in a Christian college
told how when he was teenager he had been asked to lead the closing
prayer at worship service.
It was his first prayer.
Although he had practiced it over and over, when he got up to the
microphone, he froze and when blanked for about 30 seconds.
Then he said something like, “God, thank You for being God.
In Jesus' name, Amen.”
He felt really embarrassed and tried to slip out the auditorium's
side door. But
before he made it to that door, an elder intercepted him and said, “That
was a fine job, brother!
Don't stop now, you'll be a great church leader one day.”
That elder saw much potential in that teen, and now he's written
about 4-5 books and is having a global impact through various missions
programs. A little kindness
went a long way. Here's one
more example that I need to practice more often: ''When you are in
conflict with somebody else, why not try approaching them with these
words: “I know that you love God as much as I do and that you want what
is best for His work. We
seem to be on different sides of this issue and that concerns me because
I respect your views. Tell
me again what you are thinking and help me to see things from your
That kind approach is bound to go a long way as well.
I can guarantee you one thing: the kindnesses we practice with
one another not only will be noticed by unbelievers but also they will
be a more effective witness to Christ' s power among us than a month of
my sermons would be!
Friends are kind, like David was to Jonathan.
Thirdly, friends are truthful, like Nathan was to David.
In 2 Samuel 12:1, we read that the Lord sent Nathan to David
Have you ever wondered what must have been going through Nathan's
mind as he approached his friend David to reveal to him the truth of his
awful sin and God's punishment?
The text itself sort of leaves the impression that Nathan just
“hit and ran”. No
pleasantries whatsoever are mentioned in the text.
We do know, however, that David did not harm or exile Nathan for
his telling the truth. In
fact, we see another incident where Nathan again confronts David with
another painful truth. This
is seen in 1 Kings 1:22-27.
This time he bows before David and asks David some questions to see if
he had authorized his son Adonijah to rule after him.
Then he told how Adonijah was proclaiming himself to be his
father's successor and how he and others had not been asked to his
inauguration. He then again
asked David if all this had been done with his approval.
Of course, Nathan knew already that David had verbally sanctioned
Solomon to be his successor, so he worked with Queen Bathsheba to bring
about Solomon's rise to the throne.
Nathan was more tactful this time, but he still confronted David
with the truth. Like
Nathan, good friends are truthful.
Jesus confronts us with the truth because He Himself is truth.
He gives us God's Word, and God's word is cutting—it's sharper
than a two-edged sword and rips apart our soul and spirit along with the
thoughts and intentions of our heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Some of Jesus' truth hurts, but His truth is like a surgeon's
scalpel; it cuts us to heal us.
For example, He explains clearly that we are sinners, so that we
might see His salvation! “I
tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke
13:3)! Genuine Christian
friends, like Nathan and Jesus, are always honest with us.
They are like Oscar Wilde's definition of a friend: “A true
friend always stabs you in the front!”
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” and
Paul admonished Christians of his time “to speak the truth in love”
(Ephesians 4:15). We need
to be reproved when we've offended someone, when we've sinned, and when
we are about to make a bad decision.
Painful truth given by another loving member in the body is an
unselfish act. That good
brother or sister has our best interest at heart and even risks being
disliked in order to help us.
One writer offers us some interesting guidelines to help us speak
the truth in love. First of
all, he says that we must win the right to be heard (we need to invest
much in one's emotional bank account before attempting to correct).
Secondly, don't be to hasty in giving your advice; it comes
across so much more effectively if it's asked for.
Thirdly, confront in private, never in public (and allow much
time for listening).
Fourthly, instead of announcing the wrong, try to ask questions which
will help the person to see the wrong for themselves.
Fifthly, gentle nudges might be just as effective as “fire an
brimstone” (much depends on the strength of your relationship and the
Lastly, always have a spirit of mutuality (a few tomorrows later, you
may need to hear some helpful truth form the brother or sister that you
are advising; we're all striving to get to heaven together)(Griffin).
Speaking the truth in love—we all need to practice it: elders,
deacons, preachers, members parents, children.
Friends are truthful, like Nathan was with David.
Fourthly, friends are forgiving, like Jesus was with Peter.
You recall the scene in John 21 when Peter went fishing, and the
other apostles followed him.
Jesus met them the next morning and fixed some breakfast for
them. We begin reading the
verse 15: “So when they had
eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you
love Me more than these?'
He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.'
He said to him, 'Feed My lambs.'
He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you
love me?' He said to Him,
'Yes, Lord, you know that I love You.'
He said to him, 'Tend My sheep.'
He said to him the third time: 'Simon son of Jonah, do you love
Me?' Peter was grieved
because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?' And he said to
him, 'Lord, you know all things; You know that I love You.'
Jesus said to Him, 'Feed My sheep.'”
We can't help but see the parallel between Peter's denial three
times, and his affirmation of love for Jesus three times.
Of course, this was Jesus' way of letting Peter know that he had
been totally forgiven of his past sin, and he was never to look back
again. He was to look
forward and care others who would come into the Good Shepherd's one
sheep fold. Peter knew
firsthand the sweetness of forgiveness and never tired of preaching it:
“To Him [i.e. to Jesus] all the prophets witness that, through His name,
whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43)!
Friends are forgiving, but it's rarely easy.
Twenty people who had been badly hurt were interviewed abut
forgiveness, These were
some of the results: First of all, there was no middle ground with
regards to feeling forgiven; they either felt they had or had not been
forgiven by the other party.
Secondly, they all longed to go back to the old relationship of
happier days as it was before the hurt occurred.
Thirdly, it was discovered that forgiveness could be given,
without repentance taking place, but full reconciliation was not likely
to occur if some form of repentance hadn't been manifested.
Fourthly, people were happy when the silence was broken, and
communication was renewed.
Fifthly, signs of true forgiveness were always sought after the words of
forgiveness in compliments, giving and accepting favors, and exchanging
touch. Sixthly, in every
case, it took months and months before some wounds could be forgiven,
and the parties eventually reconciled.
It's not easy, but Christ's forgiveness of our sins constrains us
to forgive others. “On the
morning of October 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts barricaded himself
inside West Nickel Mines Amish School.
After murdering five young girls and wounding six others, Roberts
committed suicide. It was a
dark day for the Amish community of West Nickel Mines, but it was also a
dark day for Marie Roberts, the wife of the gunman, and her two young
children. On the following
Saturday, Marie went to her husband's funeral.
She and her children watched in amazement as Amish families—about
half of the 75 mourners present—came and stood alongside them in the
midst of their blinding grief.
Despite the horrific crimes the man had committed against them,
the Amish came to mourn Charles Carl Roberts as a husband and daddy.
Bruce Porter, a fire department chaplain who attended the
service, was profoundly moved: 'It's the love, the heartfelt forgiveness
they have toward the family.
I broke down and cried seeing it displayed.'
He said Marie Roberts was also touched 'she was absolutely,
deeply moved by the love shown'” (Larson-Elshof).
The reason for telling this story is to make us think: those
Amish forgave one who had murdered their own children.
Has anyone sinned that badly against you in this congregation?
Now if those Amish can practice forgiveness, why can't we do it
for lesser evils? Friends
are forgiving, like Jesus was with Peter.
Here's a short poem for thought:
Around the corner I have
In this great city that has no end.
Yet days go by and weeks
And before I know it, a
year is gone.
And I never see my old
For life is a swift and
He knows I like him just
As in the days when I
rang his bell
And he rang mine.
We were younger then,
And now we are busy,
tried, old men—
Tired with playing a
Tired with trying to make a name.
“Tomorrow,” I say, “I will call on Jim,
Just to show that I'm thinking of him.”
comes—and tomorrow goes;
And the distance between us grows and grows.
And the corner—yet miles away—
“Here's a telegram, Sir.
Jim died today,”
And that's what we get—and deserve in the end—
Around the corner, a
vanished friend (Henson Towne).
Let's practice friendship or brotherly love before it's tool late.
Friends are loyal; Friends are kind; Friends are
truthful; Friends are forgiving.
Ah, friendship—“the greatest love, the most open communication,
the noblest sufferings, the severest truths, the heartiest counsel, the
greatest union of minds of which brave people are capable” (Taylor)!
What a fiend we have in Jesus!
What a Jesus we have in friends!
Surrender to Him today, and He will help you to be a better
friend! Or, let us pray
with you that God will help you to be more loyal, kind, truthful, and