Aloha Friday Message #365! – April 26, 2013 – A Friend for the Ages

1316AFC042613 – A Friend for the Ages

Read it online here, please

Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 27:6, Proverbs 27:17, Galatians 6:3, Matthew 26:50

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Help me, O God, to be a good and a true friend; to be loyal and never to let my friends down: Never to talk about them behind their backs in a way that I would not do before their faces; never to betray a confidence or talk about the things I should be silent about; always to be ready to share everything I have; to be as true to my friends as I would wish them to be to me. This I ask for the sake of him who is the greatest and truest of all friends, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

– by William Barclay

I have said “I love having friends and I have loving friends.” This has been true for me for many years. Sometimes, though, I am not as good at being a friend as I should be. I mess up, or I forget something important, or maybe precipitate a quarrel. That is one of the inherent qualities of friendships; sometimes there is hurt. Do you remember this lyric?

You always hurt the one you love,
The one you shouldn’t hurt at all.
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it till the petals fall.

How does that happen anyway? Often it happens when our pride gets in the way of our friendship. Proverbs 16:18 says, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” In any close relationship, we are able to get close because we build our relationship on trust in each other. When that trust is interrupted, the interruption often traces back to pride. There is offense taken at some real or perceived slight or oversight and we feel offended by that because it is inconsistent with our self-perception. We deserve to be treated better than that! After all, aren’t we friends? (“How could you say/do that? I thought you were my friend!”)

When we raise a comment like that, then we end up with two wounded persons. I am wounded by your words or actions and you are wounded by my egoistic accusation. You may say, “I’m only looking out for your best interests.” That sometimes gets interpreted as “I’m smarter and better than you are, so pay attention and get your act together!” Now you’re offended because I’ve apparently made a judgment against you, and I’m offended because I now believe you’re suffering from a superiority complex. In Proverbs 27:6 we read, Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” This is similar to the old adage attributed to General Sun-Tzu, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” When a friend flies off the handle and says something so outrageous that we are totally caught off guard, more likely than not it’s because we haven’t been paying attention to the loving guidance our friend has been offering. This is one of the most frequent sources of arguments between friends. We want our friend to heed our counsel, but instead they keep right on doing what we are advising against. Tension builds until POW! Our friend gets a rude awakening through our anger.

Now, of course, that’s not always the way it goes; in fact, if it always went like that it would be pretty difficult to establish and maintain friendships. Probably more often than hurting one another, our friends are a great help to us. They share in our lives; they are the “family we choose.” Proverbs 27:17 says, As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” There is something about friendship – especially a good, deep, and lasting friendship – that “wears at” us a little. We get sharpened by our interaction with a friend. We learn things, we teach things, we share things. Sometimes when there is a lot of “sharpening” going on, things get heated because of the friction. Sometimes the sparks really fly! But as time goes by, things cool down and we are not only sharper, but we are closer because there are fewer rough edges between us.

One of the greatest things friends help each other do is to face the truth. It’s also one of those things that can strengthen a friendship into a mighty alliance or strain a friendship to a miserable antagonism. “I’m just trying to make/help you see the truth” is sometimes followed by, “You made a mistake,” or “Your attitude about this is really only hurting you and no one else.” Friends can hold up a mirror for us to look at ourselves. They can help us arrive at a new perspective that can be a life-changing experience. Sometimes they can read our pain better than we can. Facing the truth placed before you by a friend can itself be painful, and yet often our friends are willing to bring that pain because they know that the pain will liberate us from the bondage of untruths. In Galatians 6:1-6, Paul is instructing the Galatians to be truthful with each other about shortcoming, but without playing “one-up-by-one-down.” He warns us not to correct people by saying, “Why can’t you be more like me?” He urges them to share each other’s burdens, not judge each other’s faults.

Even in the presence of horrendous faults or shortcomings, it is still possible to take a deep breath and to bless rather than to curse, to respect rather than to reproach, and to love rather than to lose a friend. In Matthew 26:50, Judas comes to Gethsemane to betray Jesus with a kiss. Jesus says to him, Do what you came for, friend.” This is an interesting statement from Jesus when taken in context. The word used in this passage to express the word “friend” is the Greek word ἑταῖρος – hetairos (het-AH-ee-ros). In its normal usage it means someone who is a comrade, a partner, a “cousin.” But, in this context the meaning is ironical. It is similar to what we express when we say, “Do what you’re gonna do ‘my friend.'” It is exposing the supposed friend as an imposter seeking his own gain. Indeed, Judas did have a share in Jesus’ ministry. He went out with the other disciples to the towns to spread the Gospel, to heal, to witness to the Power of God in Jesus the Christ of God. Did he actually accomplish that? We have no way of knowing, but we do know why Judas used this signal.

Judas had told the crowd, really a mob, he would give them a positive ID on Jesus but greeting him and kissing him. This crowd was not just a cohort of Roman soldiers under Roman law but an arrest by the religious leaders according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In John we read it was a “cohort of Roman soldiers and some officials.” Judas ensures the identification of Jesus because Judas had agreed to be the court-recognized plaintiff in the event a trial was called. Judas led the mob to one of Jesus’ favorite places of prayer, where only his enemies would see what was going on. Even in this context, Jesus response to Judas was gracious and kind. He did not say, “What do you want you snake-in-the-grass!”

Betrayal like this is demoralizing and destructive. It is heart-breaking. It causes us to question our own judgment. We might even wonder if there is even more damaging information coming out soon. We have the urge to strike back – usually in blazing anger – and fix the sorry soul that did this to us. And the hurt goes deep, deep, deep into our hearts – “the first cut is the deepest.” Yet, all of us have witnessed extraordinary acts of forgiveness, too. People openly forgive, sometime, the person who murdered their child or spouse, or people who stole every last penny, or even a bosom friend who totally destroyed one’s faith in humanity; often these are people who were strangers. It is easier to forgive a stranger than a friend? I think sometimes that is the case. Why? Because we love our friends. When they betray us, they betray our love and trust. They betray the core of our being. And they betray themselves. That mutual betrayal is difficult to forgive.

Recently I watched a Hallmark Movie on TV about a guy who’d totally lost his short-trem memory to an aneurysm that destroyed the part of his brain where short-term memory resides. If he went to sleep, today was gone – totally erased. Every morning he had to start off relearning who and where he was, what had happened, and what to do with the people, places, and things in his life after that medical disaster. I thought to myself, “God sees me get up every morning, and everyday it’s like starting all over with Him. He doesn’t remember the sinner. He remembers his child.” That may not be theologically accurate, but you can see what I mean. God, our Triune Creator, forgives us. In scripture, the word and idea for forgive is ἀφίημι aphiémi  (af-EE-ay-mee), as in “Father forgive [ἄφες] them…” This word signifies the idea of letting go, disregarding, not remembering, releasing, remitting, or to keep no longer.

Jesus-helping-kidsJesus is that kind of friend for us. He takes everything we’ve got – the good the bad, and the ugly – grasps it to himself, and when God looks at us he sees His Child who has released our sins through forgiveness. We are called upon to strive to be like that. We should try to be the friend who does not betray another; when we are the friend betrayed, we should try to let it go. Here’s an important aspect of that last statement. The betrayer must also try to let it go, and of course apologize and make an effort to restore the friendship and salve the hurt. Sometimes things go a little crazy and we make a mess of our friendships. Sometimes things go horribly wrong and we betray a friend in anger or in spite. In those times we have a perfect Friend who will bear all our sins and grief because not only is he a Friend, he is our Brother. We can take it all to him in prayer.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.


This is the 365th post to this site! As you look at it, remember that Jesus is not only our friend for all Eternity, but also our Shepherd, our Rescuer Down Under, and Meadiator between God and all of us earthlings.

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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