Monday, July 13, 2015

You've Got a Friend, Or Do You?

Sweet Baby James and Me

A friend had some bad news for me. As we talked, he made it clear where he stood, "If you think I'm going to the wall with you, you're wrong." As it turned out, he was a member of the firing squad. If I did not know it before, I knew then, that you never know who your friends are till you are in trouble - till you and/or your cause are unpopular, till it costs to be your friend. Then you may be singing, "You've gotta walk that lonesome valley, you've gotta walk it by yourself."

The wise man knew what the depression era song says: "Nobody knows you when you're down and out":
The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends (Proverbs 14:24).
 Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friends" (19:4). 
Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts. All a poor man's brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them (19:6,7).
Who your friends are may have a lot to do with your circumstances. 

If ever there were a true friend, it was our Lord, who had for his disciples the love than which none is greater. But though he would lay down his life for them, their friendship to him failed in his time of greatest need, first not being able even to watch and pray with him in his distress, then to a man deserting him, and Peter even denying he so much as knew him. 

There is another kind of friendship, however:
 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (17:7).
Better one constant friend than an entourage of lesser friends: 
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (18:24).
The proof is in the adversity. 

But the question of who our true friends are is one that, like the question of who your neighbor is, needs to be turned on its head. You never know who you are a friend to till your friend is in trouble, till your friend needs you, till your friend becomes unpopular, till all have deserted, and you are still there.

We want to know who our real friends are, but to whom are we real friends? 

What friends would we go to the wall with or for? Or, to think of more likely scenarios: Who are the friends with whom we would not just begin the journey but walk with all the way through the valley of the shadow of death? What friends would we stick with if they became overcome by a fault or entangled with the sin that so easily besets? Which friends would we abandon if loyalty to them could hurt a cause we believe or threaten the success of our ministry? What friends would we be seen with if it were embarrassing? Or, it cost us acceptance with those whose acceptance we want? With whom would we be friends if there was not a thing they could give us? 

One thing I have observed since my ordination in 1973
is that ecclesiastial politics and true friendship are incompatible. The former sooner or later will divorce the latter. Which makes Harry Trueman's statement about Washington aprapos to ecclesiastical bodies: "If you want a friend, get a dog." However, given my experience with my dog, I'm doubtful you can count on a dog. But then, thinking about my response when he embarrasses me in public, I'm not much a friend to Murphy either.


1 comment:

demetriusrubicon said...

You know, I 've been wondering why I can't find 'better' male friends ...You men out there, you know what I mean, male bonding they call it. Being a half-breed Hispanic doesn't help, nor does not having an affinity for the Rebel flag or football. Friends take time, something of which I don't have alot these days, being a father and a husband and all. Here is my idea of male percusive drumming, making music, reading classic literature, fixing toilets & home maintenance, daily bible reading. I guess this just turned into a Craigslist classified. Read Bill Smith on why I need a dog