1999-02-25 - Friendship Stitches
Proverbs 18:24 A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (NASB)
Can you have too many friends? Proverbs says you can. It's like a lot of things. If you try to do too many things at once, you will do none of them well. If you try to do a few things, you have a chance to do all of them justice. If you try to overextend your self, everyone will feel a little short changed and begin to fall away. Choose your friends wisely too. The company you keep is an indication of your own character.
We all will have trials. Jesus promised us that in our lives we would have trials. Some of them are problems of our own making and some seem to seek us out unbidden. There is no indication that any of this is necessarily fair, so blaming anyone for a trial is a waste of time. None of the things that happened to Jesus, especially during the last week of his life on Earth, had anything to do with fair. His disciples, His closest associates, all scattered in fear of their lives. Peter watched from a distance. Only John came to the foot of the cross with the women. This was a trial for the disciples as much as for Jesus. Out of it, they all learned something about themselves from their treatment of Jesus in His trial. Their lives where changed forever and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, they rattled the Roman world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a generation.
Prov 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. (NASB)
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus called two of his friends slow and dull of heart. To these two who did not recognize Him yet, it must have been quite a moment to have been corrected so strongly by a stranger. I can hear Jesus laughing a little in feigned disbelief as He chided them. But there was so much truth poured into it that they could not deny the accusation.
In our lives we will know a precious few of these friends who stick closer than a brother. Just like a refiners fire boils raw metal until the impurities can be separated, brought to the surface and removed, trials refine and purify our relationships. We are human and we will fail. Our friends, save Jesus, are human and will fail us too. Brothers, sisters, spouses and friends are all made of the same frame of dust as we are. To expect more of them than we expect of ourselves is not unlike the slave who threw his fellows slave into prison over a debt of a few dollars when he had been forgiven a lifetime of debt to his master.
The point is that even the best of friends and the closest relationships will suffer failures and falterings. These are times that can tear the life out of a relationship or make them stronger. If a bone is broken and not set, it will heal very badly causing all manner of problems. But, if the bone is carefully set, it will mend and the point of the break will actually be stronger when it is healed. True friendship will hold the wound closed like a stitch across a gash giving it time to heal. Even grievous wounds need not be fatal to a relationship. There is an allowance for divorce for the infidelity. It is still possible to forgive and rebuild. This is not always possible when a heart has been wounded too deeply or repeatedly. It is a reminder of our frailty. Very often, at least one member of the relationship will try to act as a stitch, holding things together. When they are pressed beyond their ability, the bleeding will not stop. Here again, true friends will be there to help their friend pick up the pieces even in the wake of the pain. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He offered her another chance.
Recognizing our part in the problem, or simply our own frailty, esteeming our friend higher than we esteem ourselves is an important first step in reconciling. The relationship may still be changed forever. In the case of the divorce, it is rarely a one-sided problem. It does happen, but not often. If both parties can at least acknowledge their parts in the problem, they don't have to part as enemies. In the case of a friendship saved, the relationship will be stronger for the pain - just as the fire is used to purify the metal. If the metal were already pure, there would be no need to subject it to the fire.
Are you already purified? Submit to the fire. Let Jesus use the trial for your benefit.
Lord Jesus - when I learn to admit my own frailty, to be completely honest with myself about myself, I take my first step toward being a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Help us not to be judgmental or fault seeking when a friend is going through a trial, or when we go through a trial with a friend. In forgiving, we learn to be a little more like You.
Grace & Peace,