Who are My Friends?

Ecclesiastes 4:10 (ESV) …if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Job 6:14 (ESV) Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

Many years ago in a sermon, our pastor basically laid out the rules of who he would be friends with.  Boom. Laid out like red carpet were the rules and regulations of his clique.

I don’t exactly remember the 3 rules but, because I’m a woman, it wasn’t a  surprise that I was disqualified by my biology.  However if I had the right genitalia, I would not definitely be in that approved gang for a number of reasons. 

Which made me sad for my husband because he wouldn’t be included probably because of me…I’m kind of a wild card unfortunately.  I’m not exactly the prim and proper Christian girl.   And I refuse to play the game.  I’ve played “fake it ‘til you make it” much too long and it almost destroyed me, my marriage and my faith.  Any God-fearing person should not ask another to be fake. Jesus wasn’t fake ever…so why should you? 

God called us to the truth.  The truth about who we are, whose we are, what we do, what we shouldn’t do, and how we think.  Never once did Jesus smile and affirm, “fake it until you make it.”  In John 8:31b-32, Jesus tells a group of his followers, “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (ESV)

He wants us to come to Him however we are, abide (learn and study) in His Word, and we will be His disciples (much more intimate than friends).  Furthermore, we’ll be set free.  He again didn’t suggest that we should pretend to be righteous and then we would be set free.  

Since Jesus is the number 1, top of the heap, example extraordinaire…who were His friends? 

What does Jesus (literally God in human form) call us?  His friends!  In Matt 26:50, Jesus called the centurion that came to arrest Him “friend”.  Actually hetarios in Greek which means a clansman, a comrade, a fellow friend.  Jesus knew what this soldier was going to do and he addressed him very intimately.  

Jesus used this word three other times in Matthew and all in parables with people addressing each other in circumstances of friendly conflict.  One is when the grape grower addresses those workers who wanted more money for their work (Matt 20:13). Another is when a father of the bride addressed a guest at the wedding who is not properly dressed (Matt 22:12).  The other in Matthew 11:16 is when children are calling to their friends to entertain them.  

If Jesus called people who were there to hurt him friends, who are those who love Him and to their darndest to follow Him?  

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul seems to address a question about who should be a leader in the church.  It’s pretty comprehensive regarding this man’s character, family life, and reputation.  I’m sure none of the disciples met these criteria in the beginning.  Matthew was a tax collector and pro-Roman.  Judas was a zealot and very anti-Roman.  Rarely did any of His followers have good reputations.  

Yet Jesus chose them to be friends and (other than Judas) the founders and leaders of the church.  These are the men who were with Jesus 365/24/7.  He took them how they were, befriended them, and helped them to grow with love and little judgement.  

That is how I want my friends to be.  I don’t want to have to check a list of outside behaviors first before they take me in.  And I don’t want to hold my friends to an impossible standard that just surrounds me with people just like me.  If two people act and think the same, then one is redundant.

Friends should spur you on to your most Jesus-like self.  Iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).  I can’t imagine what the disciples taught Jesus but I’m sure He needed their support and love.  His friends disappointed Him in Gethsemane.  They ran when he was arrested.  But they stayed in Jerusalem after the execution even when it could have meant their lives.  

They weren’t perfect.  They weren’t playing Jesus-follower.  Their fear and love were not fake.  And they eventually did what was right through their building of the church until their martyrships.  

Who doesn’t need loyal friends like that?

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