How to be a Good Friend

In Luke 5:17-26, Luke recounts the time Jesus miraculously heals a paralytic.

At the time Jesus’ popularity was swelling. All kinds of people wanted to be around him for many different reasons.

Some wanted Him to provide miracles in their lives. Some were intrigued by His mysterious teachings and healings. Some wanted to follow Him all the time because they knew He was God. Others were offended by Him but stuck close by looking for an opportunity to outwit Him and/or condemn Him as a blasphemer of Jewish law.

In Luke 5:17-19, Jesus is in a house teaching, and people of each group listed above literally pack out the house. It is crowded with people hanging on every word that comes out of Jesus’ mouth.

The second part of verse 17 reads, “And the power of the Lord was present for [Jesus] to heal the sick.”

How curious!

However, a quick perusal of commentaries told me I am the only one, in fact, who finds this statement curious.

It seems to me this verse implies Jesus “needs” the power of “the Lord” in order to heal the sick. Typically, the Greek word for Lord used here refers to Jesus. But that doesn’t make sense in the sentence as we English-speakers have constructed it.

Assuming we didn’t screw up the meaning of the verse by translating it oddly, “the Lord”, then, must be a reference to God in general.

We could chase a bunch of rabbit trails here (actually, I’m already doing that…), but I think this verse is interesting because it shows Jesus’ relationship with and interdependence on God the Father and/or God the Holy Spirit.

Just as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do things at times (Acts 1:8, Galatians 5, Romans 8), so was Jesus, at least while He was here on earth. Another discussion for another time.

ANYWAY, the actual point of this post: while Jesus was teaching, some friends of a paralyzed man “tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus,” (Luke 5:18).

Why?

Because these friends believed Jesus could heal this man if they could just bring him to Jesus. (Oh, the symbolism practically writes itself, doesn’t it?)

Verse 19: “When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.”

What great lengths these men went to in order to give their friend the opportunity to be healed!

They carried him up the stairs, illegally damaged a dude’s roof by using some sort of non-electric tool to bore through sturdy ceiling tiles, found some extra long rope, and rigged up a pulley system situation to lower their friend down into the home. (Any friend who is willing to employ physics to help you is a friend indeed.)

And then beautiful verse 20, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.'” (Spoiler alert: Jesus also physically heals the man a few minutes later. He just chooses to address the man’s greater need–spiritual healing–first.)

What gets me is how the friends’ faith played a crucial role in the paralyzed man’s healing. They persistently and creatively pursued Jesus on the man’s behalf. They believed Jesus could physically heal the man, and, as his BFFs, they were determined to give their buddy an opportunity for Jesus to do just that. They were not swayed by the obstacles they encountered along the way.

They were going to get their friend to Jesus no matter what it took.

And if that doesn’t smack you between the eyes, I don’t know what will. (I will, actually, if you want me to…)

As I read this story, I first thought about times in my life my friends did whatever they had to do to get me to Jesus. How I even became a Christian in the first place is a direct result of persistent, faithful friends.

But even after I became a Christian, there were hard times during which faithful friends kept pointing me to Jesus and petitioning Him on my behalf. They had faith that He could heal me emotionally and did whatever it took to give me the opportunity to be healed by Him.

And then I thought, “Am I that kind of friend to my friends who need healing? Do I do whatever it takes to keep pointing my friends to Jesus when they are going through major trials? Am I going to great lengths to lead my non-believing friends to Jesus for the opportunity for salvation? Am I going to great lengths to encourage my struggling believing friends to pursue Him for the healing emotional comfort only He can provide?”

In some cases I think I’m doing all right. But in others I could be doing a lot more.

And I bet you “score” about the same.

So today we should all spend a minute or two thinking about specific things we can do to be as good of friends to our friends as the paralyzed man’s friends were to him. (I know, that sentence is confusing. Allergy meds have taken over my brain.)

And then, after we do some good thinking, we need to actually do the things we thought of.

We can do it. He can help. (And, in some cases, so can Home Depot.)

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Spiritual Legacy: He Provides

I’ve never had a full-time job. As in, NEVER.

I guess that’s what happens when you marry an “established” man before you graduate college. Elian had a great job that met our needs. I finished my degree a year after we said, “I do,” working part-time along the way.

Once I graduated, our plan was to have children with whom I would stay home relatively soon. So hunting for a full-time gig was neither necessary nor wise at that point. I continued part-time work for a couple of years until I was 8.5 months pregnant with our first child. I took the last month of the pregnancy off and birthed an amazing little person in April, 2007, fully intending to stay home with her.

Lexi Baby

The more we thought about it, Elian and I came to the conclusion that my paltry part-time paycheck wasn’t so dispensable after all. I mean, we could make it, but it would be jeggings tight.

So we decided right after Lexi was born I would look for something part-time to give us some wiggle room. It helped both first-time grandmothers wanted nothing more than to babysit their little darling while I worked.

Summer started, and I had no idea what kind of work to look for. And, frankly, I wasn’t in the frame of mind to tackle a job search. Don’t get me wrong – my heart delighted in the gift of my precious daughter. I was completely and utterly in love with her.

But.

She wasn’t much of a sleeper and thought nursing was something she should do EVERY TWO HOURS FOR THREE MONTHS STRAIGHT. And, as any woman who has nursed a child will tell you, that equates to approximately 8 minutes of sleep each day for mommy. And that is a generous estimate. Add to that the mystery “colic” she had, which really means she was inconsolable for no apparent reason, and I was moments away from being committed.

Throw in a job search with the interviews and the “showering” and the whatnot, and all I could do was imagine my sarcastic response to a potential employer’s question like what are my “strengths” … I AM ALIVE AND SO IS MY CHILD. WINNING.

So, you see, I wasn’t feeling the whole work thing. I just wasn’t there physically or emotionally, and every time I looked at that little baby – 4 weeks old, then 6 weeks old, then 8 weeks old – I thought the same thing: she’s too little for me to leave her for work.

And yet. The financial wiggle room. It wasn’t there.

The days went on, and we continued to float along, wondering what we should do.

Then, mid-summerish, some friends came to visit us. At the time, they were our daughter’s appointed guardians if something were to happen to me and Elian. So they came into town to meet their possible future new addition. We visited a good long while, had some lunch, watched the baby’s every fascinating move.

Then they handed us an envelope. Obviously, I knew what it was – a congratulations-on-the-new-baby card. But it felt different in my hands.

It felt… thick.

It probably has a folded, hand-written note in it, I thought.

I pulled the card out and read the front. I don’t recall what it said, but I remember what happened next.

As I opened the card, $20 bills came falling out. More bills than I could count. My eyes filled with tears as the realization set in that many hundreds of dollars were sitting in front of me.

Overwhelmed, I searched our friends’ faces for an explanation. It went something like this, “We hope this small gift will help you be able to stay home just a little longer with Lexi.”

The Lord… through His people… I’m telling you… He provides.

I did stay home, worry-free, for several more months. As is the case with most colicky babies, once she turned three months old, all was right in the world. No more countless hours of crying. She slowed her roll and learned how to give me 3-4 hours between feedings, which meant my 8 minutes of sleep/day DOUBLED. I started to feel more human again. A part-time job fell in my lap. And I didn’t kill anyone.

The Lord… through His people… I’m telling you… He provides. 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

When to Confront Someone

Last week I had an issue with a friend. I felt wronged and disrespected. I felt unloved and unvalued. And, for some reason, I felt like that person ought to know how I felt.

Why do we do that? Why do we feel we have to tell someone when they hurt our feelings? What’s really behind that line of thinking?

Maybe it stems from our sense of justice. If that person remains ignorant to the fact they hurt us, they will never feel guilty. And they should feel guilty. After all, THEY HURT US. It is only justice they should feel bad for doing so.

Or maybe we feel we have to tell them they hurt us out of pride – we won’t stand for it! We don’t deserve to be treated poorly, and they need to know they aren’t going to get away with it. We may not exact revenge, but we will cut off that relationship or alter it in some way to make it impossible for them to hurt us that same way again.

In either case, there is one thing behind this compulsion to give offenders pieces of our minds: selfishness. Me, me, me – it’s all about me and my feelings.

Is it biblical to confront people for these self-centered reasons? to take justice into our own hands or to defend our own honor?

Let’s see…

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19)

So, how do we live at peace and leave revenge/justice/our defense up to God when someone has hurt us? We feel angry and bitter, there is no denying it. What do we do with those emotions so we can live in agreement with this Romans passage?

I asked a wise friend this question, and he gave me an incredible answer. Don’t confront someone unless your heart is for them.

In other words, if it isn’t in their best interest to be confronted, keep your feelings to yourself. Until your heart is more concerned with their benefit than with your “need” to express your feelings, keep your mouth shut and your heart in prayer.

Needless to say, this piece of advice isn’t natural. But it’s biblical.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

I sat on this idea for a couple of days, questioning if my heart really was for my friend who had inadvertently hurt me. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about him at all in the beginning. I was thinking about me and what would make me feel better. The more I thought about it, though, I don’t think going off on my friend really would have made me feel much better. It would have angered my friend, hurt my friend, and I doubt it would have tempered my anger and bitterness much at all.

My friend had already hurt me – there was no undoing that. But I had a choice in how to respond. I could hurt him back, or I could help him see how he hurt me so he wouldn’t make the mistake of hurting anyone else again. I could root for him in my soul to become better than how he had acted toward me. I could believe that he hadn’t intended to hurt me, and I could believe, through Christ, my friend had the ability to grow. I could long for him to grow and make that the reason for my confronting him.

I believe this is one way to apply Paul’s instruction to live in peace with one another and consider others better than ourselves.

I’m happy to report approaching my friend with this mindset – what’s best for him in this situation – worked out pretty well.

Although the rule of thumb is counter-intuitive to us self-centered humans, I think we’d do well to live by it. Don’t confront anyone until your heart is for them.

 

Feel Good Article of the Year

One thing I haven’t come to grips with yet about this life is that friendships don’t last forever.

In fact, all relationships are fluid. People move in and out of our lives as time goes on. It’s just a fact of life.

A fact of life I despise.

Whether it’s circumstances, choices, disagreements or death, everyone we hold dear will eventually leave us. And, of course, we will also eventually leave them.

Even our familial relationships will end. We may live in the same city for 60 years with our parents, our siblings, our spouses, our children… we may have great emotional intimacy with them, picture perfect (yeah, right) relationships, but, if nothing else does, death will prevail.

Circumstances separate us. Our best friends we grow up with move away for college or for a job or for a significant other. We get absorbed into creating our new families, pursuing our new careers and exploring our callings. We keep in touch as best we can, but time and distance defeat our resolve.

Choices and disagreements break our relationships. Our spouses file for divorce. Our children flee in rebellious huffs. We push our friends away out of self-protection.

The list goes on… the point remains the same. No relationship is forever.

We are utterly alone. The only companion we have through it all is ourselves, and we don’t even really like ourselves all that much. Realizing this is hopelessly depressing. We fold our hands and choose to insulate ourselves from this painful reality by retreating from our present relationships. Avoid pain at all costs – this is the human mantra.

But we can’t live like this.

We soon discover the pain of being a hermit equals or surpasses the pain of loving others we know we are going to lose one way or another.

Who will rescue us from this catch 22?

“…the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” (Galatians 1:3-4).

Jesus gives us the solution. He offers us all eternal life so death will no longer separate us from those we love. We may be temporarily separated on earth, but we will be reunited in heaven forever, enjoying sweet and perfect friendship.

What’s the catch?

Both parties must accept Jesus’ solution.

It’s not hard, but it does break down our pride quite a bit to admit we can’t right this ship ourselves. We can’t over come loneliness or the inevitable fact that all our relationships are coming to an end. We’ve already lost so many – proof we can’t control anything.

But there is One who is offering us hope – hope we literally and figuratively cannot live without.

Choose hope.