last supperAfter the men had gathered for their last supper together, Jesus made a shocking statement to his followers.  In the light of who he was–mighty God, the Messiah, the Christ and Savior of the world–Jesus’s announcement is a total departure from the relationship mankind had previously experienced with God.  He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13 and 15).

building friendshipAs we contemplate and meditate on this astonishing declaration, our hearts must swell with joy and acceptance of our new exalted position of Friends of God.  This friendship must change us, however.  We come to understand the depth of the riches of God and the depth of his love for all people, releasing us to love in a new way.  Friendship has become a holy endeavor, initiated by God and perfected in His love and sacrifice.

With that in mind, as we approach people, there are some caution signs attached to friendship.  Here are nine Don’t’s of developing a committed friendship.

1.  Don’t wait for others to reach out to you.  Our lives must be an extension of God’s heart that is always ready to receive the broken-hearted, the lovely and the ugly alike.

2.  Don’t share just facts with your friends.  Share feelings.  Let people know YOUR joys and sorrows.  Your hurts and misgivings.

rejected friendship shirt3.  Don’t expect everyone to like you.  I learned that people either love me or hate me.  There is no in-between.  This became a valuable lesson in maturity.  I’m no longer hurt by folks who don’t know me but who reject me.  It’s a fact of  my life.  And harshly speaking, it is a fact of your life.  Not everyone wants to be friends with us.

4.  Don’t expect your friend’s friend to be your friend.

5.  Don’t be quick to voice your own opinions.  Some–perhaps many–things are best left unsaid.

6.  Don’t harbor unforgiveness or bitterness over offenses.  Peel away the hurt of a careless remark.  Stomp until dead the pains of neglect that come into every friendship.

7.  Don’t share negative information about others.

8.  Don’t expect a friend to be your source for love, significance or security.  Only God can give you that.

9.  Don’t let a friend take the place of the Lord.

In dealing with persons who are mentally challenged, it is vital to understand that they often do not have the cognitive ability to understand the fine nuances of friendship.  This means that certain boundaries may be necessary for you to set.  In the opposite direction, you may experience that their responses to  your friendship overtures may be overlooked.  Friendship with a person with special needs is a great privilege and joy.  Their friendships are worth taking the time and energy to develop.

face to face with lionIn ancient times, few people were given the privilege of seeing God.  While we aren’t told that Abraham actually saw God face to face, we know that God valued Abraham so much that he was called “the friend of God.”  It was an amazing closeness.

However, for the Hebrews to acknowledge that a man would have friendship with their G-d was not even logical.  Jehovah’s name alone was so holy that the Jewish people dare not speak it.  Therefore, when spelling G-d’s name, the vowels are left out so it cannot be pronounced.

Understand, this is a sensible precaution considering the history of  mankind-and-God’s tentative relationship. We note that God loves.  Man rejects his love through sin.  God continues to love.  Women and men fail.  God loves.  We finally fail so completely that the only answer is to turn to God.  God forgives in his love.  God and man live in harmony for a time and then the cycle begins again.

Therefore, it is amazing that God’s mercy and grace reached out to us to give to us his son.  He is a man whom we can touch and with whom we can experience God’s forgiving love through a personal relationship.  We are no longer slaves but friends.

I often tell people that I’m God’s favorite.  Most people laugh.  Some get angry.  Yet, it is the fact that God desires to have a personal relationship with me that leads me to believe that I must be his favorite.  I know who I am and how much I must be forgiven each day.  Still, he loves me.  He desires to be my friend!

Christmas reminds us that God became a man in order that we might become a friend of God, having a face-to-face relationship.  Through our own efforts, we cannot obtain forgiveness or peace.  Ironically, achievement isn’t necessary.  Acceptance of God’s grace is.  Jesus’ birth means that we come face to face with God and we share in his love with total abandonment and joy.