Laymanointing

…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14

5 C of developing Friendships & Fellowship in church

Dear bro Bao 寶弟兄,

Glad you are having a regular time with the Lord, and experiencing His gracious hand upon your life, and your family and work.

As you get to know christians at church better, you’ll make some new acquaintances, .. some new friends, … some good buddies … and some brothers.  None of us are perfect, so in the midst of making new friends in church you may face joy, … disagreements, … and sometimes disappointment.

Its best not to set too much expectations upon new friends, … and always be ready to ‘understand rather than be understood‘ … and be quick to forgive.

In the last 2 days, … somehow, the conversations revolved around making friends in church.

My friends, a couple had been at their multi-cultural church for more than a year, … and they were wondering …

“do the people at church know our names?”

“or they just remember us as the couple who bring home-made pastries for the coffee time after church?”

“If we are not around next week,… will anyone call us from church?”

Another, a new believer,  was cozy in his small circle of church friends, … but, was uncertain about the others in his mono-cultural church.

Another dear Asian friend, a pharmacist’s wife was sharing about the elderly people she regularly visits to deliver packaged medicine.  In particular she fondly remembers an elderly Caucasian widower who always looks forward to her visits.  He will specially brew warm tea, with pastries, and waits expectantly by the gate for her arrival.  They have a good hour of warm conversation over tea.

Unfortunately, in life, sometimes we face friends like –  All your fair-weather friends have skipped town without giving you a second thought. (Jeremiah 30:14 MSG)

We all yearn for meaningful relationships and warm community.
Friends who will walk with us, rejoice with us when we are rejoicing, and weep with us when we are weeping (paraphrasing Romans 12:15)come, visit, ‘cheer us up’ & pray when our road is tough … a cheery regular “how are you?” from farway.

Galatians 6:2 (NIV)
 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Proverbs 18:24 (MSG)
Friends come and friends go,
but a true friend sticks by you like family.

Heard this from a pastor sharing about ‘a healthy church’.
There’s someone at his church who would see him every week.  This man was critical of the pastor’s message and comparing his message with other preachers.  Each time the pastor was gracious.  This went on for sometime.
Finally, the pastor suggested that … perhaps its better he attends another church where the message would bless him.

After a long, long, long pause,
finally this person said poignantly,
But my friends are here.”

This pastor added that when someone is new at church, if they do not find friends within a few weeks, chances are … they will move to somewhere else.

Perhaps the lyrics from the theme song of  ‘Cheers’, ring so true
… so much so that it was voted the best television theme of all time by readers of  Rolling Stone magazine (2011).  Here’s an excerpt:

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name

(crafted by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo)

Indeed, people are yearning for a safe place,
where they can relax and just be themselves,
where everyone knows your name.
where they’ll find
you too 🙂 … I thought I was the only one



 As a recent follower of Jesus, church becomes a new social environment to navigate in developing new friendships, hopefully meaningful & lasting ones.

Moving to a new city was a major reboot for me.  Through my stumblings and cruising in making new friends in a new environment, I’ve observed a few things.

Like everywhere,… in church, folks comes in various shades and hues.  Also, each one of us have our comfort zones with regards to friendships.

* For some, relating superficially is good enough.  Not everyone wants to develop a deeper level of friendship.

* Some folks are contented with just a tiny handful of good friends, … while others need a larger group of friends.  Some need to be popular, while others cherish their privacy.

* For some, ‘likes’ and fans are more important than friends.

* Some are shy, inward and awkward, others are bold, outgoing and gregarious.  Some are private, others are open.  Some are expressionless, others are animated.  Some are quiet, others are chatty.  Some are cold, others are warm.  Some need to be drawn out, others warm up quickly.
Let’s not judge a book by its cover, but be open to reach out.  Like a quiet dark bottle, … once popped open, some may unexpectedly fizz and sparkle.

* In one context, some may be dull, … while in another context, a live-wire.

* Some folks attend bible study groups to just focus on bible study, not for friendship.  Some attend prayer meetings to pray only.  Some folks attend church for their one-on-one time with God, not for friendship.

* Some like to keep a low profile and be anonymous.

* Some express friendship by talking/listening, … while, others express friendship by doing things for others.

* Fear of gossip.  Some are  reluctant to open up their lives to others, having experienced bad experiences with other Christian groups who gossiped about them.  Unfortunately, sometimes Christians leak information about people, or share too much details about people with others;  trust & respect is broken.
In general, people avoid a gossiper, or one who talks too much, or one who asks too many prying questions.

Proverbs 11:13, 16:28, 29:19
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.

We all prefer trustworthy friends who keep secrets.

* Even for Jesus, amongst His close friends,
one betrayed him.

* There are some who pick friends by sizing their status in life first … i.e. ‘where or which suburb you stay?’, ‘what work you do?’, ‘where you work?’, etc.

* Sadly, …  sometimes fellowship is extended consciously or unsconciously based on culture, creed, doctrine, ethnicity, economic status, dress code, education level, etc.
Martin Luther King Jr once spoke about the most ‘segregated hour’.

In all, let’s respect everyone, and continue to be loving.  Fellowship, friendship also involves accepting and embracing diversity in all its infinity … diverse humanity in the body of Christ.  Everyone is unique, and has something unique to offer :-).

An essential skill in being a friend is to be a good listener.
Listen first, … listen to understand, …. listen to empathise, … listen to value another’s experience/background/point of view  … before forming our opinions,  which sometimes are colored by our own background, perspectives, past experiences, prejudices, etc.
When we ask discreet, thoughtful questions to delve deeper, to clarify … the other person feels we genuinely value/respect who they are, where they come from and what their thoughts and views are.  This is particularly so in cross-cultural settings.
A listening friend is like a warm blanket on a cold night.

Friendships are maintained by a healthy level of respect for one another.

In some churches, there’s a ‘let’s move around, and greet everyone‘ moment during the church service.  I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I’ve felt uncomfortable as it felt superficial.

Once, while visiting a new place, I visited a church.  Before and after the service, hardly anyone spoke to the visitors.
While visiting another church, … before the service, folks spontaneously chatted with the newcomers.  The pastor and his congregation were very friendly, so much so that I was still there 1.5 hours after the service had ended.  Another friend who visited also had a similar experience at this church.  We felt welcomed and ‘at home’.

From observation, … generally, friendly churches, usually have friendly, unassuming pastors and church leaders.   Leaders have an influence on the vibe & culture.

Sometimes, in church, the words “commitment” is used, and tied with it unconciously, and tacitly is the idea of “loyalty“.  However, commitment and loyalty in relationships are earned through respect over a period of time, through meaningful  time spent getting to know one another … sharing moments & values .  Its never requested or assumed like in an organisation or company.  The church is built on relationships.
Don’t feel obligated.  It takes 2 hands to clap.

In making new friends, honestly, I do feel awkward and sometimes tongue-tied.  I just marvel at others who are so natural and spontaneous at it.  I think my feelings are best summed up by the lyrics in the song “Beauty and the Beast” (crafted by Howard Ashman  from the animation movie of the same name).

Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Unexpectedly
Just a little change
Small to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared

It takes time and effort to invest in developing meaningful friendships, especially if we are new in church. Have a thick skin, and don’t worry about rejection.  The first step to making friends, is … to be friendly … and be always ready to forgive and move on with life.
A man that hath friends must show himself friendly, … Proverbs 18:24 (KJ21)

Friendship involves being sharing reciprocal peers.  No one likes to be always on the ‘giving’ end, or be taken for granted.

In a sense, making friends is like a dance.  It takes 2 to tango, … 2 hands to clap.

Like a dance there are mis-steps, mis-read moves, and sometimes we step on each other’s toes, … sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry.

Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven,
     but dwelling on it separates close friends.

Associating ourselves with the right friends, can also influence our attitudes and character to be more like Jesus.

Proverbs 12:26 (NIV)
The righteous choose their friends carefully,
    but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Proverbs 13:20
Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm

Proverbs 22:24,25 (NIV)
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,

    do not associate with one easily angered,
25 or you may learn their ways
    and get yourself ensnared.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)
 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”


A little note about making friends across the generations,

1 Timothy 5:1-2 (NLT)
Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.

Humility is the key …

1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)
… All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another …

For older folks with younger folks:
… share/speak as a peer
… avoid having an advice tone or framework (like an elder brother/sister, or father/mother).
… listen, … ask questions, … try to understand things from the other’s perspective, …
… be open to new thoughts/ideas
… be interested/encouraging in their activities, interests, aspirations, etc.
… gently help (if required)
… lead them to discover answers, rather than tell them.
… don’t nag
… be creative & interesting in communicating

With older folks, … be credible, consistent, caring

1 Timothy 4:12
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.


The gospels have an inspiring story of caring friends.

Mark 2:3-5
And they *came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus saw their faith … and love in action on behalf of their sick friend,  They went the extra mile for their friend.  Friendship is expressed in thoughtful kindness.

Some years ago, a dear friend shared with me about his pastor.  “If something happened to anyone in the church, Pastor Henry would be the first to know or sense it”.  Indeed, he was deeply loved by  his loving flock, who share his love for people.  A compassionate man, he also ministered in the prisons as the prison chaplain, and carried the burdens of many on death row.  Pastor Henry, a dear friend, and a shoulder to cry on for many.

 


What follows is my simple framework for cultivating peer friendships in church, so that our expectations on friendships are set at a realistic level.  Mis-matched expectations in relationships, sometimes cause misunderstandings and disappointment among friends.

Caveat – The enclosed C list is not exhaustive, and is not meant to pigeon-hole or stereotype friends.  It is also not meant to appraise the level of each friendship we have.

However, it may be helpful for us to evaluate ourselves to know how far and deep we honestly would like to develop the friendships around us.  

Before we plunge into the Cs of friendship, let’s also remember there are visitors in our midst, who have yet to step into the waters of salvation.  Hence, its good to be courteous, respectful, friendly, and helpful to everyone we meet.

By nature, we tend to gravitate to people similar like us, and folks we are comfortable with.
However, to keep a church group visitor-friendly, welcoming, and caring
… it helps if we reduce one C word – Cliques
… and work on another C word – Community.

Broadly speaking, friendships may be viewed as a progression from activity to buddy to commitment:

** Activity-based, corporate friendships – casual, communicate
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 4:42 (NIV)

** Buddy friendships – cooperate
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
Acts 4:46,47 (NIV)

** Commitment friendships – collaborate, covenant
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. …
Acts 4:44, 45 (NIV)

Its true not everyone wants to head down this road,
as it gets increasingly involved & costly for either, or both parties.
(eg time, resources, etc)

Much like the business fable of Pig & Chicken opening a restaurant together
serving ham-&-eggs
— the pig is committed, … while the chicken is involved.


Casual, a brief – Just an acquantance
who knows you exist,
and you know they exist.

Hi.. Hi’ … “Bye … Bye” “How’s the weather?” friends.
Courteous, friendly, small talk  … but not keen to develop a friendship.
Some folks are very comfortable at this level.

Shared greetings.  Shared smiles.

Some examples:

* Sometimes, there are folks who only talk
… Bible scriptures, church, about other people,
… or the news, sports, weather, politics, the latest fad, etc
… but rarely details about themselves or share their feelings.
They may even lead groups in church, and are helpful.
We may know them for sometime,
… and yet,…
not really know them at all … who they really are
Friendship is not cold, but arms-length, ‘business-like’.

* The church leader or someone who only calls with a
pls come to our meeting‘ call
or a ‘pls help do this‘ call, ‘pls help’ call
rarely
a ‘how are you?’,  ‘How’s things?‘ call.

* Some who gather only to study and discuss the Bible, without a desire to share more about themselves or  form deeper friendships, … In some ways, preferring to ‘hide’ behind the Bible and spiritual talk.

* A room of transient casual acquaintances.

* Virtual contacts in social media … a post here,  a selfie there … known, yet unknown.

Sometimes … a devout, spiritual person may not be a friendship seeking person (kind of strange, but true)

Sadly, sometimes … relationships may merely be functional/operational.  Once in a while …one is texted/called … when there are problems, prayer request, bible/church question, someone sick to visit, facilitate a meeting, etc …. once in a while …

Friendly … yes
Friendship ? …. maybe another time.

 


Communicate, a barber/bartender – Folks we meet regularly through home group/bible study groups, or other organized meetings in church, or come together to do a project, or part of a committee.  We know some details about them.   We are hesitant, cautious to share more of ourselves, or provide any advice to them, …  unsure if the other person wants to develop a friendship.   Sometimes, the other person is simply not keen, or too busy or is present to fulfill a functional role.

Shared conversations.

Activity-based relationships.
Out of sight … out of mind.

In general, we tend to gravitate towards honest, sincere looking people.

1 John 1:7 (NASB)
but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

if we walk in the Light … fellowship with one another
Church fellowship thrives when we all walk in the light.
As we regularly fellowship with the Lord, walk in His light, His Word changes our character to be more like Him.  

Sometimes,
some folks choose to be closer to others relative to how ‘useful’ they are to them.

… sometimes we meet ‘outliers’  in church:

Consumer – an “emotionally needy” person who has no desire to change oneself and follow Jesus, …. ending up draining others dry.

Transactional – with a personal motive/agenda in getting to know others;  sometimes, commercial interest (eg multi-level marketing, insurance), or networking, door-opener.

1 Timothy 6:5 (NLT)
These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.

Tabloid – A walking ‘wikipedia’ who liberally shares details about folks they know to others, … about some folks we don’t even know.

Proverbs 16:28 (NIV)
A perverse person stirs up conflict,
    and a gossip separates close friends.

Charlatan – Example: one who portrays different identities/values on social media – eg, a Christian identity in Whatsapp group chat, and a different identity on Facebook.  Friends in the Whatsapp group are uncertain of the person’s motives and true identity.

Others:  drill sergeant, rejected ‘prophet’, spiritual ‘wanna be’, comparator, social butterfly, etc.

… In his Epistles, Paul also mentions about his experience with false brethren (Galatians 2:14, 2 Corinthians 11:26, 2 Timothy 4:14).

Jesus shared, Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves … be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves … you will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16, 10:16, 7:20)

1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV)
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing
 

Church messages on ‘walk the talk’,  Biblical character development and sustaining healthy marriages/families are vital to healthy relationships in church, … though sometimes such messages may offend some in the congregation.

Thankfully, the majority of church goers are honest, respectful, reasonable and sincere people.

There’s one other group though, …. that perhaps, we can reach a hand to – the ‘hurt’ believer.  They are sincere, … but have been hurt or disappointed by others or church leaders/folks in the past.  Patient listening helps.

 


Coorperate. a bridge – We communicate and meet beyond organized church settings.  We initiate meetings/meals on our own, or have spontaneous personal calls, messaging.  Our spouses, children also begin to know each other.

We feel safe to share with one another, and encourage one another.   Mutual sharing & edification.  We start to feel concerned for our friend.  We begin to uncover one another’s Christian walk, joys, fears, motivation, past, … our best, our worst, etc, through meaningful sharings.  We start calling if one misses a meeting or is feeling down, discouraged.  We begin to regularly pray for one another, and encourage one another to grow.

We can be honest, and at times weak, vulnerable with one another.  We are discreet, and  honor one another’s privacy.

Shared values,
shared experiences,
shared fellowship, shared trust, shared prayers, sharing peer.

Amos 3:3
Do two walk together
    unless they have agreed to do so?

Sometimes … such friendships are birthed through a caring brethren who reaches out to us in the midst of our unexpected valleys or storms.
Sometimes … the person who reaches out, or the Lord sends … may be a pleasant surprise to us.

2 Corinthians 1:4 (MSG)
He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.

As this form of friendship is not centered solely on church activities, there is a good  chance of such friendships surviving suburb moves, or moves to other churches, or cities/overseas.

There’s a saying, ‘when things get tough … one discovers who their  true friends are
… this painfully becomes clear … sadly, even in Christian circles.

Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity

This is when ‘family’ friendships are forged
… through both of us supporting one another through something together with the Lord.

Is the friendship,
only just me ‘giving’,
… or only just me ‘receiving’,
or a healthier ‘giving and receiving’ ?
(see Philippians 4:15)

 


Collaborate, a blend – Iron sharpens Iron.
Safe to correct one another, and speak into each other’s life.
Safe to strongly disagree, and willing to look past our disagreements and faults, … our friendship is more important.
Hence, … not all of our cooperate friends grows into collaborative friends.

We value our trusted friend’s advice, perspectives and rebuke.  We feel its for our good, rather than being judged.  We value their earnest advice, even if its contrary to ours.

We all need friends who love us enough to tell or ask us the hard questions, in love, … even if the truth hurts us.
And vice versa.

Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another.

Psalm 141:5 (NKJV)
Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.

Proverbs 27:6 (NLT, NIRV)
Wounds from a sincere friend
    are better than many kisses from an enemy.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted.
    But an enemy kisses you many times.

A supportive friendship that’s weathered through disagreement, disappointment.
Like family with a healthy mutual respect and love,
… a friend who’s ready to support us,  … even though we may choose a path contrary to their opinion.

Like Jonah, God didn’t abandon him even though Jonah initially strayed from God’s direction.

Love bears all things [regardless of what comes],
believes all things [looking for the best in each one],
hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times],
endures all things [without weakening].
1 Corinthians 13:7 (AMP)

A friend who is on the lookout to practically help his/her friend walk into the purposes of the Lord,
… by being a door-opener, a vision encourager, a supporter/enabler, a well of hope
– “How can I help him/her to be successful, … to further develop his/her gifts/talents ?”

Romans 1:11,12 (NLT)
For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. 12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

For collaborative friends, maybe we can do something together, or build upon one another’s strengths.   Partnerships, alignment of values, vision.

Shared experiences, shared values, shared vision.
Shared accountability,

Philippians 1:3-5 (NIV)
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now

1 Samuel 14:6-7, 13-15 (NIV)
Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”
“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said.
“Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”….
13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. 14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.
15 Then panic struck the whole army—those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties—and the ground shook. It was a panic
 sent by God.

Luke 10:1 (NIV)
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 

The multiplied effectiveness of 2 collaborators compared to a lone ranger, is expressed in the following verse,

Deuteronomy 32:30 (NIV)
How could one man chase a thousand,

    or two put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
    unless the Lord had given them up?

 


Covenant, a bond – The ‘extra,extra-mile with a smile’ friend.  Safe to suffer loss for one another.

From my personal missions experiences:
In danger, “When I get out, I will make sure you get out too, I’ll not leave you behind”
In crisis, “When we all are low in finances, we’ll share our last cent we have together”.

John 15:13
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends

This is the stuff of heart warming against the odds movies, like Frodo and Sam in the ‘Lord of the Rings’.  Such bonds of friendship resonate with audiences everywhere, especially when the stakes are high or impossible … and for a brief moment we are all lifted up to the best of brotherhood/sisterhood … hoping for friends like that in our midst.

Shared defining moments, accountability.

Examples in the Bible:

** Epaphroditus

Philippians 2:30 (NIV)
30 because he (Epaphroditus) almost died for the work of Christ.
He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

** Jonathan

1 Samuel 18:1,3,4
After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

By descent, Jonathan was the heir to his father’ throne.  However, he knew, God had chosen his friend, David.  He was willing to step aside in favor of  his friend and support his success.

** Onesiphorus and all his family

2 Timothy 1:15-18 (NLT)
15 As you know, everyone from the province of Asia has deserted me—even Phygelus and Hermogenes.

16 May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. 17 When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me. 18 May the Lord show him special kindness on the day of Christ’s return. And you know very well how helpful he was in Ephesus.

Paul was in chains in jail.  Locked away.
Everyone forgot about Paul.

Not so for Onesiphorus and all his family.
he searched everywhere until he found me
Onesiphorus went and knocked on the doors of every jail in Rome, looking high and low, for his friend, Paul.  Out of love and concern for his friend, Paul, … Onesiphorus was relentless, until he found Paul amongst the thousands of prisoners.

Onesiphorus and all his family often visited and encouraged Paul.  He was never ashamed of Paul’s lowly state, or was afraid of being accused, or thrown in jail himself.  For his friend, Paul, it was alright for Onesiphorus (the good samaritan) to be inconvenienced.
It was not a one-time visit, … they visited Paul again, and again, and again
to encourage Paul.  They agape Paul unconditionally.

If we’re in Paul’s shoes (or chains) … truly,
a brother helps in time of trouble.
Proverbs 17:17 (NCV)

how helpful he was in Ephesus.
For Onesiphorus, encouraging, helping and caring friends in need was his lifestyle, … and his family caught his lifestyle too. 

** Ruth 

Ruth 1:15-18 (NIV)
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi were walking into an uncertain future, yet Ruth chose to risk her future to follow  Naomi … and became one of the Gentile women in Jesus’ genealogy.

John followed Jesus after his arrest into the high priest courtyard (John 18:5), and was at the cross on Golgotha (John 19:26) … even though, there was a real risk to John’s life.   Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome knew the risk when they went to anoint Jesus body at the tomb … and became the first witnesses/evangelists of the Lord’s resurrection (Mark 16).

Some years ago, was on a personal trip visiting a rural village pastor friend in a developing country.   The church pastors in his province all spoke well of this pastor, and commended on his generosity towards the orphans under his care.  This man had grown up in the midst of war in his country.

Although he spoke little English, but somehow our spirits clicked, and we managed to somehow communicate (the Bible was useful 🙂 )

Over dinner, he offered to exchange wrist watches with me.

He had little, and his wrist watch was probably one of his most valuable possession.  My wrist watch was a very cheap Casio, … tiny in comparison to what I owned.  In my mind, this was far from a fair exchange.

Days later, while recounting this incident with an experienced missionary, he informed me that this was a tribal way of expressing covenant friendship.

Looking back, I regretted not honoring my friend.  While I was looking at the $$$ value, he was looking at something more valuable that money cannot buy.
His depth of expression of friendship was so much richer than mine.

 


Making friends also helps us grow as a person.

In a sense, making friends, requires us to move away from our comfort zone …  come out of our shell, unmask our make-up. …. resist our fears, … and gradually be comfortable under our own skin … to be real, honest, authentic, vulnerable …. friendly.

The lyrics from the award winning song “Let it Go” captures this so well
(crafted by Robert Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez  from the animation movie, Frozen).

Here’s an excerpts of the lyrics:

Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl
you always have to be

Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know
Let it go,
let it go

Can’t hold it back anymore
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

Let it go, let it go
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway
Let it go, let it go

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway!

 


Here’s 2 verses that beautifully capture the meaning of friendship & community,

Proverbs 27:10 (NLT)
Never abandon a friend—

    either yours or your father’s.
When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance.
    It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away

Isaiah 32:2 (NIV)
Each one will be like a shelter from the wind
    and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
    and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land

In our lives, its the cheers & prayers of a loving community of dear friends who believe in us, … that carry us through life … that silence the jeers of life.
(Again, this is the stuff of ‘feel-good’ movies of the unlikely hero and his ragtag friends, … resonating with audiences everywhere … when the hero finally triumphs against the odds, with his friends by his side sharing the moment)

May the Lord bless you with great friends like Onesiphorus and his family, Jonathan, Ruth, and John as you walk with the Lord!

bro Lim 林弟兄



 

  Friendship | Dear Bro Bao 寶弟兄

by 林弟兄, bro Lim
December 28, 2014
laymanointing.wordpress.com

Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
Creative Commons License

 


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This entry was posted on December 28, 2014 by in Daily Rice, Dear bro Bao 寶弟, Serving Quietly, Stepping Stones and tagged , .

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