Sunday, April 7, 2013

With Friends Like These

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

-- Proverbs 18:24 
Who is your BFF (Best Friend Forever)? And for that matter, what's the mark of a true friend?

Writer Elbert Hubbard defined a friend as "...someone who knows all about you and still loves you." Actress Marlene Dietrich remarked that the friends who matter are the ones you can call at 4 a.m. But President Harry S. Truman was less sentimental about friendship. "If you want a friend in Washington," he said, "get a dog."

Maybe President Truman was onto something. After all, dogs are known to be loyal and committed. And it so happens that loyalty and commitment are qualities that God values in His people. Joshua--one of the great servant leaders of the Old Testament--demonstrated these traits when he challenged the tribes of Israel to choose who they would serve: the false gods of their ancestors or the one True God.

"But for me and my household," declared Joshua, "we will serve the Lord."

Jesus also seeks this same level of total commitment from His modern-day followers. Rather than would-be believers who might help build His kingdom if it's not too inconvenient for them, Christ demands an all-or-nothing relationship from those willing to give the little they have to eventually gain everything.

Does this sound unrealistic? Jesus' closest friends once thought so. One day, a rich young man asked Christ what he needed to do to gain eternal life. Knowing what was in the man's heart, Jesus reminded him about following God's commandments regarding theft, adultery, murder, lying, and honoring one's parents. When the man replied that he had kept these laws since childhood, the Savior told him that he lacked just one thing: the need to sell all his possessions.

Jesus knew that rather than loving God with all of his heart, soul and mind (the first of the Ten Commandments), the rich young man was actually more devoted to money. The would-be follower was crushed by Jesus' harsh revelation and turned away.

How about you? As Christ-followers, we demonstrate our commitment and loyalty--as well as our friendship with Him--by showing kindness to those Jesus calls "the least of these." They might be famine victims in Africa, tsunami survivors in Asia or folks who are literally picking up the pieces after a tornado in the American Midwest. But then again, those who most need our kindness are often as close as down the street, next door or even across the living room. They might be total strangers. Or they could be your family members, your friends...or even your BFF.

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