“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…” –Paul, Philippians 2:3
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” –Paul, Romans 13:10a (emphasis mine)
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” –Proverbs 27:6
So does being a faithful friend mean that you come at conflict happily with hammer in hand? To do some serious wounding? Or that you always put your friend on blast every time something he or she does annoys or, worse, deeply hurts you?
Um, no. Remember that whole speaking the truth in love thing? Well, that guides not only your approach but the content and heart behind it. God sees your heart, and He knows if you’ve got your friend’s best interest at heart or your own.
Personal Pronouns Notwithstanding
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” –Proverbs 10:12
You might fire back, “But what about how they make ME feel?” Or maybe you’re thinking “What might he think think of ME?” Or perhaps, “Shouldn’t she be the one stopping with the strife and being considerate of ME?” Sorry to break it to you, friend (and for all the emphasis on the personal pronouns), but there’s a different road we must take. We all have to get out of this mindset that says friendship is about “ME” getting “MY needs” met, well, because it isn’t. As Christ followers, friendship isn’t simply defined by mutuality or personal benefit, it’s defined by self-denying, unconditional love that begins with our choice to move toward for the sake of our friend.
“Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends… I’ve called you friends…” –Jesus, John 15:13-15
Let’s consider this for a moment: Do you think Jesus got all His needs met by His friends? No. Actually, He got frequently misunderstood, wrongfully rebuked, horribly betrayed, and fully ditched during pivotal life events, including by those He held most dear. But did that stop Him from hanging out with them? Did He opt to upgrade His friend circle for a better crew? Did He decide to drop them and select another Twelve out of justified disappointment? No. He stayed engaged. He patiently explained. He prayed for them. He called them out when needed. He calmed their fears. He spoke God’s Truth to them. He even washed their feet. Then to top it all off, He gave up His life.
See, Jesus was committed to His friends to the very end, and even after He rose again! That’s the same kind of life-giving friendship that He offers to each one of us. By being a friend like this, God used Jesus in the lives of His willing disciples and transformed them into being more like Christ. And like Jesus, God has placed us in our particular context for a purpose, not to only love people who love us, or to be kind only to those who like us, hang out with us, enjoy our favorite things, or respond to our text messages and Evites much to the delight of our egos. (Yes, egos. We all have them.)
If we’re going to really be like Jesus – true, faithful friends who love despite each other’s failures – we’ll have to ditch our “they shoulda” lists, deny ourselves, and lay down our lives for our friends.
Taking Another Path
Does this mean we ignore it when our friends hurt us and never deal with it? No, that’s fear-based hiding again, and relationships don’t thrive in a truth-less, love-less, superficial context like that. We have to take responsibility for our feelings and maintain a commitment to love regardless of the cost to ourselves.
There is a path that leads to real healing in our hearts and relationships, but to embark on it will require humility, patience, and an even deeper reliance on God from you. You’re also going to need to set aside some time and get into a quiet space to really engage the prompts below. Find a nice spot in your room and close the door. Book an appointment with yourself and turn off your phone. Go hike to a quiet place and settle down with your journal in hand. Whatever you need to do, make this a priority and get to it.
Are you ready?
Great. Let’s do this.
(Don’t worry – this part is still just between you and God for now.)
1. Examine yourself.
“Do not judge so that you will not be judge…Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold the log is in your own eye?” –Jesus, Matthew 7:1-4
I once had a theology professor who told us about an elementary school kid who made an interesting point about this Scripture. Upon hearing these oft-misquoted, “don’t judge” verses from Matthew 7, he burst out laughing. Like seriously laughing. Like holding his tummy and dying with the giggles. Puzzled, my professor asked what was so funny. Apparently, he thought it was comedy picturing someone with a GIANT wood log in their eye and a pair of tweezers in hand coming after someone with a tiny little splinter in theirs and saying, “Just hold still…let me get that for you.” Seriously. Picture it. Now, imagine the panic on the face of the poor guy with the splinter!
Who knew this kid was such a theologian?
So my guess is that you see where I’m heading with this. Now, before you launch into how justified you are to be hurt, and you haven’t done anything nearly as bad as they have, take a good hard look in the mirror…
and include the cross.
“…for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God…” –Paul, Romans 3:23
Not so pretty in that light, is it?
2. Consider your own part in the matter.
“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” –John, I John 1:8
“…do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” –Paul, Romans 2:4
So painful as it can be to admit, you’re not off the hook. It’s time to be honest about where you stand before God. If it weren’t for Christ, we’d all be lost in our own sins. But praise God, Jesus came! And because of His sacrifice for our sins, our debt is paid, and we stand righteous in God’s sight.
Now for those of us who are ridiculously hard on ourselves: Don’t beat yourself up. (The devil would love that because that keeps your eyes off of Christ too!) Yes, this is the time to invite the Holy Spirit in to convict you of your own sins in the relationship, and then as He reveals it, repent. Not replay the events over and over. Not further condemn yourself (Romans 8:1-2). Simply repent and receive the extravagant grace of our God based on the costly death of His Son. He’ll heal you and lovingly cleanse you thanks to Christ’s blood.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” –John, I John 1:9
And when God declares you clean, you’re clean. End of story.
It’s time to get unstuck and move on.
3. Acknowledge the debt incurred by your friend, and tell God all that’s in your heart. Serious. ALL of it.
You’ll need to acknowledge the reality and validity of not only what your friend did (or didn’t do) and all the messy hurt connected with it that’s sitting in your heart. Perhaps you don’t know where to start. I know some of you still have those sweat beads break out when it comes to vul-ner-a…vul-ner-a…a…
Have no fear! The Psalms are filled with great prayers for when we’re in such a position. Here’s a great example from David to get you going.
“Give ear to my prayer, O God; and do not hide Yourself from my supplication. Give heed to me and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and am surely distracted, because of the voice of the enemy, because of the pressure of the wicked; for they bring down trouble upon me and in anger they bear a grudge against me…
“For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend; we who had sweet fellowship together walked in the house of God in the throng…
“As for me, I shall call upon God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice. He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, for they are many who strive with me…”
4. Then, do the unthinkable (if not just unnatural) to our fallen selves:
Cancel the debt.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” –Paul, Colossians 3:12-13
It’s legitimate: Your friend owes you, and very often it’s something you have a right to expect in relationship! But the bad news? They can’t pay up. Not even close. The deadbeat! And perhaps they don’t even know they need to, or worse, they don’t want to. What then?
Let Christ pick up the tab. If we take God at His word, the costly sacrifice He made on our behalf is more than enough to cover every sin any of us have ever made and will ever make. Really. After all, He did the same for us.
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” –Paul, Romans 5:6-8
Jesus paid the debt we simply had no means to pay, and then He calls us to do the same…repeatedly. Just see Ephesians 4:31-32 and Matthew 18:21 and following (thank you, Andy Stanley, for the reminder!). And this is of great importance because if we don’t forgive, God won’t forgive us.
Wow. That’s scary.
Don’t let that be you! The enemy would love for that to be you. He wants to turn you into a bitter, hateful person who he has wrapped around his lying little finger. Please deal with it before God…now.
5. Ask the Spirit for wisdom in moving forward.
“But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting…” –James, James 1:5-6a
Now, it may be time to write one of those therapeutic letters you don’t actually send, or pull out your cell and hit “Call”, or schedule a lunch date to talk in the near future. There’s no cookie cutter answer. You need to rely on God to lead you and prepare the way for you, and the only way to know is to seek Him through His Word and through prayer.
Remember, this doesn’t come naturally. We need the Designer of relationships to show us how it’s done. Each situation is different. Each friendship and story is unique. Being the amazingly good, wise, and sovereign Lord that He is, He knows exactly what He’s doing in your friend’s life and the right time and way for you both to connect. Let God have the reins in your relationship and teach you how to reconcile with your friend.
You may need to have a talk with your friend that’s very difficult. Now, this isn’t possible (or necessarily advisable) for every situation. But if after praying and asking God what to do, He then puts it on your heart to pursue this kind of talk, know that it’s time to stop the excuses and start obeying. He will be with you and give you the grace for what you need to say (and for the times you just need to keep your big mouth shut!).
If He does ask this of you, start praying about your next step. If you’re not sure, then definitely keep your heart open and continue praying until you do know. As you consider all of this, here are some truths you can meditate on as you prepare for what may be next:
- Realize He’s always with you, so you don’t have to be afraid. (Hebrews 13:5c-6)
- Trust His Spirit will guide you as you yield to Him so that He can exhibit His life through you. (John 16:13-15; Galatians 5:16-26)
- Breathe. God will help you through this. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)
- Put on humility: Be slow to speak or get angry, and quick to listen. (1 Peter 5:5-11; James 1:19-21; Proverbs 17:27-28)
- Prepare to be patient, kind, and speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:32; Ephesians 4:15, 25)
- Know your words need to be seasoned with grace to build up and not tear down. (Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:29)
- No matter what the outcome, again, know that God always loves you, is always with you, and is always for you. (Psalm 118:5-9; Psalm 73:21-28; Romans 8:31-39)
Keep going! Read Part 3 – A Faithful Friend: A DTR…with My Friend?!