“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
Why is it sometimes easier for me (and you) to believe the deceit of a liar than the truth of a King?
I know I’m not alone (though I wish I were for your sake). I’ve been writing in this space long enough to know too many of us can relate.
Sometimes we behave like we’ve forgotten things we know to be true. There’s this pesky disconnect between what we profess and the holy Word we esteem, in contrast to how we live and respond.
Maybe we’re paralyzed by worry, drowning in a pool of envy, defeated when everyone around us seems to be winning at life. Our enemy is a cruel and cunning heart-breaker. We may have heard “comparison is the thief of joy” a million times, but sometimes it takes our friends to speak the truth we already know, truth we may have forgotten in the moment. Could this be one reason God invites community, of course, with Him, but also with others?
I remember a season years ago when I felt like an utter failure. The funny thing to me now is I cannot remember the “failure” part; what I vividly recall is my friend Rebekah turning me toward her, looking me unflinchingly in the eyes and firmly declaring, “Robin . . . YOU are not a failure. You failed at ____ but you are not a failure.”
She repeated those words until she was sure my heart heard them as clearly as my ears. It was a subtle but important distinction that reoriented my thinking and freed me from the bondage of mental self-flagellation.
I want to be the kind of friend who lives her faith by extending grace and liberty, speaking truth, and loving well. Isn’t that essentially the way of Jesus?
Flesh and blood girlfriends help us remember who we are and Whose we are.
In John 15, Jesus is talking with His disciples, His dear friends, about what great love looks like. He uses word pictures and metaphor to engage them: Himself as the vine, God as the vinedresser, Christ followers as branches. He talks about abiding (finding life) in Him, bearing fruit, keeping His commandments, giving your life for the sake of another. Love. The best of friends demonstrate deep love when they’re willing to sacrifice themselves for another, and soon after speaking these words, Jesus surrendered His life for his friends. For you, for me.
Most of us will never be in the position literally to lay down our life for our friends. But sometimes there’s risk attached to truth-telling; bruising or losing a significant friendship is no small thing. But true friends express love when they abandon telling you what you want to hear in order to tell you what you need to hear, even if it risks your friendship. Maybe especially when it risks your friendship.
They help you to see that you failed at a task, not that you are a failure. They find a way to help you consider a more accurate or healthier perspective.
A good friend is willing to speak truth because they care about and love you, not because you’re wrong or off base.
Motive makes all the difference in the world.
My pastor once told me the most unloving thing we can do when we see a sister or brother struggling is nothing, even when the something we need to say or do might offend our friend. It wasn’t a suggestion to go around pointing out planks in all my friends’ eyes, but lovingly and with gentle humility to help the friend see where they were blinded.
It’s as important to be this friend as it is to have this friend.
To have a good friend we must be a good friend. Though I don’t often return to the King James Version or NKJV of Scripture, I love their translation of Proverbs 18:24:
A man who has friends must himself be friendly . . .
A lesson I think I’ll be learning the rest of my life is not everyone I’d like to be friends with wishes to be friends with me.
Despite all the ways I reach out with the hope of cultivating friendship or finding meaningful connection, some relationships never gain traction. My overtures are not reciprocated. This has been the case in both my real and online lives. And though it might be painful, I’ve realized this is okay. If a friendship doesn’t materialize, or an existing one falls apart, I’m learning to return my focus to Christ and trust that whatever happens is, indeed, best for me and the other person. Rather than dwelling on void or rejection or wallowing in, But why doesn’t she want to be my friend? I cherish more closely the women who love me and sow into my life. I look at that overflowing glass of what I do have.
We’ll be the best kind of friend to all of our friends when we friend like Jesus —
quickly forgiving . . .
sacrificing ourselves for the good of others . . .
extending grace instead of holding grudges . . .
and loving without condition.
Resist the enemy of your heart, the prince of lies, and the one who steals, kills, and destroys good things including friendship. Cling to Jesus and those rare friends who point you back to Him and help you remember you are beloved and beautiful. Praise God for the women in your life who friend you well.
Let’s go and do likewise.