Grace For The Journey
Few musical groups have cashed-in on our glaring problem of loneliness more than the Beatles. They wrote a number of songs highlighting mankind’s recurring difficulty to have meaningful relationships with others. Recall, for example, those hauntingly familiar lyrics about “all the lonely people,” lonely people such as:
picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
lives in a dream
waits at the window,
wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door
who is it for?
Or other lonely people such as:
writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
no one comes near
look at him working,
darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
what does he care?
All the lonely people
where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
where do they all belong?
As a minister there have been many times I felt just like Father McKenzie: “writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear!” Maybe some of you can relate to Eleanor Rigby, picking up rice in the church where a wedding has been, but it’s not your wedding.
Inwardly we each yearn for acceptance. We want people to like us. We want people to come to us, to listen to us. We want people to think we’re really important. We want to be surrounded with meaningful relationships. We want friends.
As you read through the Book of Proverbs you will notice that the words “friend” and “neighbor” occur frequently and are often used interchangeably. In today’s blog we will examine a number of these occurrences and how they apply.
In Proverbs 12:26, the Bible says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully; for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
Mankind was created for relationships. Human beings are different from every other created being in that humans bear God’s divine image. Our ultimate purpose in life is to enjoy the relationship God intends that we have with Him, bringing glory to Him as He repairs our fallen natures through faith in Jesus Christ.
It is unnatural for us
To have no relationships
Outside of our
Relationship with God
Through Christ we find our sense of completion and wholeness with our Creator. But Jesus said the Great Commandment is two-fold. In Matthew 22;37-39, Jesus says: “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
God created us to have relationship with Him and relationship with one another. God expects that we have love our fellow man, our friends, our neighbors, and our acquaintances.
Having noted this truth, we observe first that Solomon issues a warning regarding wrong relationships.
We Must Be Cautious In Our Friendships
Proverbs 12:26 says, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
Choose your friends carefully. If you don’t choose them carefully, you may end up choosing those who will lead you astray.
Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”
That’s a good proverb for parents to teach their children. Teach your teenage children that one: “He who walks with the wise will himself be wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” We become like the people with whom we associate.
Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.”
Solomon warns that we really do become like the people we associate with. He says if you hang out with an angry person or a furious person, you will “learn his ways.” That is, you will become like him and you will “set a snare for your soul.”
Hang out with people who have the kind of character you aspire to have yourself. We should avoid associating with those who will bring us down, but seek out friendships of those who inspire us to be better and do better. Hang out with people who have the kind of character you aspire to have yourself.
But not only must we be cautious with respect to the actions of others, we must be cautious with respect to our own actions, too. For example:
Proverbs 25:17 says, “Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house, lest he become weary of you and hate you.”
We all need our space. When you visit, stay a short while and then go. Don’t bore your neighbors to death! Stay briefly, be positive, and then go. Leave them with a positive note. Be the kind of person they want to see again, the kind of person they want to hang around with. Be cautious in your friendships.
We Must Be Candid In Our Friendships
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
This proverb sounds backwards. We might expect it to read, “Faithful are the kisses of a friend, but the wounds of an enemy are deceitful.” But Solomon intends the irony. That is, you can trust a friend who is candid with you. He is the one who is honest with you. His honesty may be like wounds, but they are wounds meant to heal and help. He tells you the truth. He doesn’t sugarcoat it. Do you have friends like that? You can trust a friend who is candid with you. He is the one who is honest with you.
On the other hand, “the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” This is the one who always flatters, who always butters up, who is deceitful in his or her praise, as though flooding you with a flurry of kisses. Don’t trust him. Don’t trust her. Friends are those who can be candid with you. That way, when they praise you, you know it is sincere praise.
Proverbs 27:9 says, “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.”
Again, we all need friends we can go to who will give us good counsel. His counsel is like the sweet smell of perfume. But we must always be wary of those who only say good things, who seem given to flattery:
Note the warning in Proverbs 29:5, “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.”
Be wary of flattery and praise. Even our Lord Jesus warned in Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” There’s an application there about being cautious and candid in our friendships.
We Must Be Consistent In Our Friendships
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
A friend loves at all times. He is consistent. She is consistent. A friend is one who sticks with your through thick and thin.
Proverbs 26:18-19 states, “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, ‘I was only joking!’”
Nobody likes to be around the one who attacks his neighbor, who pokes fun, who deceives! A true friend doesn’t do something for a laugh at your expense. True friends are consistent. Their behavior is predictable. You can count on them in a pinch.
We learn about friendships from Charles Shultz’ cartoon “Peanuts.” One cartoon shows Peppermint Patty saying to her friend Marcie: “I’d like to read this book, Marcie, but I’m kind of afraid. I had a grandfather who didn’t think much of reading. He always said that if you read too many books, your head would fall off.” Marcie responds as only a true friend would: “You start the first chapter, and I’ll hold onto your head!”
We Muse Be Christlike In Our Friendships
Proverbs 17:9, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.”
This is the one who overlooks a matter, the one who seeks to “bury the hatchet.” A powerful truth is stated in Proverbs 19:11, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” Jesus Christ knew about “overlooking an offense” and “covering over a transgression.” The Bible teaches us how Jesus responded to others in 1 Peter 2:21-23, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;’ Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
When someone insults you, just overlook it. It is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense. Christ overlooked the insults of His offenders and committed Himself to the Lord God.
Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
The old adage is still true: “Want a friend? Be a friend.” Go up to others and speak kindly to them. Be approachable. Look at people and smile. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Go up to them and be a friend.
Then, the second part of that proverb reminds us of our Lord. The Bible says “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Our Lord Jesus is like that, isn’t He? In fact, in Jesus Christ we see what ultimate friendship looks like. Jesus says in John 15:13-14, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
Do you know the friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ? Can you sing with the hymn-writer:
I have found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Jesus is the closest friend we’ll ever have. He is the one who takes us in His arms and shields us from all harm. Find true solace in Him.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”