Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Day Sixteen: Friendship

The WORD of the Day:

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion...Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken." 

--Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12

Let Me Give You a Lift:

Human beings were made to build relationships.  We are born with an innate desire to love and be loved.  The Bible is filled with stories of the people that Jesus loved on this earth.  Naturally, he loved his family. One of His final acts on this earth was to make sure that His mother would be cared for. But even more emphasis is placed on the relationships that Jesus built: his friendships. And Proverbs tells us "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." That's the kind of friend we are called to be; it's also the kind of friendships we want to build. Jesus' life provides us with excellent examples of what that looks like.

For instance, Jesus was very close to three siblings--Mary, Martha and Lazarus--who lived in Bethany. There are multiple stories in the New Testament in which Jesus visits them and teaches in their home. In fact, in one well-known account, Lazarus dies and Jesus raises him from the dead. But before he does (and even though he knew what he was going to do), the Bible says "Jesus wept" and was "deeply moved."  He wept for the loss of his friend, and he also wept for the hurt that Mary and Martha were feeling.  Jesus cared deeply for his friends.

Jesus also leaned on his friends for support. The night of the Last Supper when Jesus knew what was to happen next, he was overcome with sorrow and left the house to go pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He takes three apostles with him, telling them "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me."  Recognizing that needing each other is normal, and not a weakness, is a really important lesson. And one we should take to heart; if the Son of God needed his friends, certainly we do!

Another great example is Jesus' friendship with Peter.  Outspoken, brash, headstrong Peter. He often said and did the wrong things (refusing to let Jesus wash his feet;  cutting off someone's ear, etc.), but Jesus knew that Peter's heart was in the right place.  Jesus was patient with his friend's flaws.  

One of the most famous accounts about Peter occurred when the guards took Jesus away to be crucified.  People asked Peter 'you're with him aren't you?,' 'aren't you one of them?' and 'surely you were with him.'  Peter denied Jesus. Not once, but multiple times, and vehemently. Luke recounts the aftermath this way:
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
I don't know exactly how Peter was feeling, but I have a good idea. I have hurt friends before, and I know what that feels like. It's spirit-crushing.  But the thing about this friendship--and all true friendships, really--was that the betrayal was not the end. That's what differentiates Judas (also Jesus' "friend," who also betrayed him) from Peter.  Peter was the right kind of sorry.  Peter loved his friend, was willing to admit when he was wrong, and did all he could to make amends. When we hurt our friends--and we all do at some point--we must love them enough to make it right.

On the other side of this same story, I can imagine how Jesus must have felt when Peter betrayed him, abandoned him. I've been hurt like that before. But Jesus loved Peter. Jesus saw Peter's penitence, and forgave his friend. Nothing in the Bible says that was easy, but it is necessary; penitence and forgiveness are what heals broken relationships.

These are just some examples of the kind of friend we are looking for/should be.  But even more than that, they are important characteristics to remember about our relationship with God. He is the ultimate friend. He will always be patient with our flaws, and will always forgive us when we ask Him to. And He cares deeply for us.  Now let's go do the same. Have you let your friends know how much you appreciate them today?

Give it a Listen:

Today's song is "Hold On" by Toby Mac. It's basically just a song he's singing to someone he loves who is hurting. The message is: hang in there, and I'll help you.  The video is pretty cute. It's a stop motion video a group of girlfriends made together for fun.  My favorite lines:

And the stars are up there shining for you,
oh how the Father does adore you,
and His love will never change. 

And you and I, we were born to follow,
a hope that will lead us to tomorrow,
and no one can take it away.

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