Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Of Friends And Enemies

The world says "keep your friends close and your enemies closer". I hope your values come from a deeper place than that. I hope that your love for your friends come from a greater source. And I hope that your motivation for your enemies is much less selfish than this philosophy. But seriously, have you considered your friends lately? Are they friends because they contribute to you, because you get something from them, or because you have much to give to them? That is not saying that they don't contribute to you. In fact, it is God's desire that we contribute to each other from the resources he provides. But friendship cannot be a selfish thing.

I am not sure we really understand friendship like we once did. I could be wrong. Maybe you have friends who you love to give yourself to and who you would dearly miss if they were not around. If you have such friends then enjoy them while they are close because you may have times of separation when you will reflect on these times with fond memories, and they will be a source of encouragement. That is the sense I get as Paul writes to Timothy:

Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. (2 Timothy 1:4)

We can understand Paul's expression of longing for his friend when you keep in mind his situation. He had been cut off for a few years as he sat, imprisoned in Rome, waiting for his trial before Caesar. On top of this there had been a falling away of leadership. We read:

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy 1:15)

At the end of the letter we read:

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. (2 Timothy 4:9-10)

We will look at all this in detail later. It is enough to know that Paul was feeling alone and abandoned by those who he had trusted as brothers. Is it any wonder that he longed to see his friend, his son in the Lord, Timothy? He remembered the tears of his friend when they last parted. How hard it must have been for Paul who had given up everything in obedience to Jesus.

I don't think many of us can appreciate this sense of separation from those we love. Certainly there are times when we are separated from family and friends but we know we will see each other again. Perhaps the ones who can identify with Paul the most are those who leave family and friends to serve the Lord in dangerous places in this world. They leave all they know behind and have no assurance they will ever make it back. Try to imagine that feeling.

My point is, many of us do not have friends like this.We have friends but do we have friends who love us so much that there are tears at our parting? Do we give of ourselves to such a depth that they are like part of us? Do we think of those moments and feel that love, and long to have them close at hand? We should. That is the level of love and involvement that Jesus has brought us to, but it is our choice to let people in. We can be friends of sorts from a distance but real love risks pain and hurt. Real love is vulnerable and is prepared to be wounded. Real love takes it on the chin and refuses to keep a list.

Real love is a risk and friendship requires a vulnerability that many of us refuse to enter into. Perhaps it is the reason we are not very effective in sharing Jesus with others. We have to care enough to share. We have to love enough to take the risk. We have to love enough to open ourselves up to allow rejection. It is what Jesus did for us and then he commanded us to do the same for others.

Paul took that risk and in the end there were more `friends`who rejected him than who stood with him. Sounds familiar doesn't it? Where were all Jesus' "friends" as he hung on the cross? We must be friends to all people, investing our lives in others, taking the "risk" of complete rejection, and finding great joy in those who we have Jesus in common with. Take the risk,be a friend; it is well worth it.

No comments: