I PRAY TO CHOOSE FRIENDS
In the next few weeks, I shall write about some difficult and pleasant choices I had to make and how prayer has helped me to accept my own choices. I made and still make those decisions and I have to live with them. My first friend was a six-year old girl and I was seven and we watched cows together. I have learned some lessons since then, how to go about making friends.
Whenever I look at the faults and mistakes of others, I am really looking at myself. This is what Jesus is telling me. Before I start looking for specks and black dots in others, I should be looking at the log that mars my eyesight (Mt. 7:3-5). My distorted vision requires corrective surgery and so does the hand that tries to throw a stone(Mt. 5:29-30). Paul offered this caution. “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another, for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same thing” (Ro. 2:1). In addition, we are in the world and we have to walk on a tight rope between Christ and Mammon, because we need people of means to sustain us (Lk. 16:9-13). How can we conduct ourselves without offending those who feed us? It is easy to see the difference between the Spirit of God and the spirit of the world, but it is a much harder matter to walk between them (I Jn. 4:1). What did Jesus suggest we do?
To start, we are human and make mistakes and must settle with others whether they are believers or unbelievers. Even worldly people have a sense of fairness when they are approached with genuine remorse. Jesus illustrated this point in “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” (Mt. 18:21-35). The king cancelled the servant’s debt, and then rescinded it, when the servant did not show mercy to his subordinate. It was, in this connection, that Jesus added, “the sons of this world are wiser in dealing with their own than the sons of light.” Paul accused his own people of being the reason why the Gentiles blasphemed God, because the Jews were breaking God’s laws (Ro. 2:17-23). It was not a God-fearing judge that defended the persistent widow against her adversary (Lk. 18:1-8). The idea that a Christian can go free and clear without settling his or her account in this world received no support from Jesus (Lk. 12:57-59).
There are more fundamental instructions as to how to be friend Mammon’s children. The eyes of the world are on the Christian and not the Christian’s eyes on the world. The Christian has his eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-2). When the world employs a Christian it is for his or her honesty and reliability (Eph. 6:5-8). Marital faithfulness, a yes, rather than an impossible promise, and a peaceful and submissive attitude, go a long way. Locking horns with people that can help a Christian is not a viable option. Turning the other cheek or pretending to walk the second mile can be insulting while making friends. Showing some love without innuendos will hasten a friendship and make help available (Mt. 5:31-48). Mammon’s children are just as sensitive as Christians and appreciate a warm and friendly acknowledgement for their generosity.
In befriending Mammon’s children how much must I become involved? How can I help my enemy become a brother or sister in Christ? I have learned that friendship is not necessarily membership in the kingdom of Christ. I have also learned that pointing at sin and correcting errors does not set the unbeliever apart from a believer. Regarding good works and generous deeds, Mammon’s children have nothing to be criticized for. They may not acknowledge Jesus, but they definitely do what He recommended (Jn. 10:38; Mt. 25:31-46). In the last four years, I have become friends with people that have rendered no lip- service, but much heart-service (Mt. 7:21-23). It is not Christ that draws these people together but a music club that our youngest son has started. Our son is in charge of worship in a Covenant Church and my wife and I attend an Evangelical Presbyterian Church and all three groups behave and do what Jesus teaches. The Churches do it for the sake of Christ; the club does it for the sake of music.
Friendship is not necessarily based in believing in a person or a dogma; but in the hearts of men and women, young and old, in a common cause or need. Paul helped me consider this idea; namely, the Gentiles that did not have the Law of Moses, were guided by their hearts to do what was right (Ro. 2:15). Man, not Jesus, drew a line between a child of God and a child of the world or of Mammon. The Prodigal never stopped being a son when he was away from his father, his brother or his home. It was his bad behavior that separated or clouded his relationship (Lk. 15:11-31). The religious leaders had excluded Zacchaeus from the Hebrew faithful but not Jesus. The Tax Collector always has been a son of Abraham (Lk. 19:1-10). The Crippled Woman Jesus healed on the Sabbath, after eighteen years of being tormented by Satan, was also a daughter of Abraham (Lk. 13:10-17). Jesus had other sheep that the religious elite did not admit in their fold but He did in his. They too will hear his voice and what they hear is, “Love one another” (Jn. 10:16-18).
Friendship is the first step in leading others to get to know Christ Jesus as Lord and Savor. It is not like the sound of a high pitch trumpet or the pounding of drums. It is more like a taste of salt or the warmth that comes from the flame of the light of a candle. In using salt, we do not do the salting. It is the customer that orders the food that applies it to suit his taste. The same procedure applies to the light. We either dim it too much or we blind people too much. Instead of standing out like a sore thumb, we can stand beside them helping along and even learn from them. Gradually they do begin to inquire about what true friendship is. Then we can point to Jesus’ sacrifice and our own (Jn. 15:13). Such a friendship is hard to refuse. That is my humble prayer.