A few years ago, I graduated from college a year ahead of schedule. I didn’t really plan it that way, but I found myself having extra credits and not wanting to have debt, so after three years, I walked across the stage and turned my tassel. I loved my college years and had dozens of incredible friendships through my campus ministry and classes-- leaving those was the saddest part.
I reassured myself that those friendships wouldn’t change when I was back in my hometown and everyone else was still on campus… but they did.
I found myself thrust into the real world with a real job, an apartment all to myself, bills in my name, and a whole new list of responsibilities, and when I stopped to look around, I realized very few of my friends had stuck with me. These were friends I had thought would be by my side for life, but as soon as something shifted and changed, everything fell apart.
I’ve seen this happen so many times, under so many different circumstances, and it’s heartbreaking.
Someone gets bad news of a scary diagnosis, and their friends don’t know how to help or act, so they vanish. Someone goes through a messy divorce, and friends flee instead of having to “choose sides.” Someone loses a job and needs help, and friends hide instead of offering assistance.
Have you experienced anything similar in your friendships over the years?
What about the opposite?
Someone gets their big break and the spotlight shines their direction, friends flock to them, wanting some of the fame for themselves. Someone wins the lottery or receives a large inheritance, and friends come out of the woodwork hoping some of the blessings will fall their way. Someone has a big accomplishment, and friends gather in celebration, even when they weren’t around for the struggle.
Tim Challies recently wrote about this in his article “Why Are You Friends with Your Friends?” and he asks a bold question-- “Are you friends with your friends for the sake of your friends? Or are you friends with your friends for the sake of yourself?”
Take a few moments right now to consider the benefits of your friendships. Many are likely self-centered.
“When there is benefit to be gained by our associations, we gladly proclaim people our friends,” writes Challies. “But when that association threatens to bring us to shame, we quickly deny them. Why? Because our love for our friends is less than our love for ourselves.”
When our friends publish books and close deals and succeed in their fields, we want to be seen with them. We want to be associated with that kind of accomplishment, that kind of glory. But when our friends fall ill or get down on their luck or have their sin exposed publicly? We don’t want to be found anywhere near that, afraid their mistakes or misfortunes will taint our own reputations.
But what would it look like if our friendships were others-centered? What if we loved less selfishly and more sacrificially? What if the challenges and hard circumstances where the times where we leaned in closer instead of running away? What if we stepped in where we saw sin, and gave grace to our friends and offered forgiveness and love instead of being afraid of tarnishing our own image?
Maybe we would be the kind of friend that sticks closer than a brother, instead of the kind of unreliable friend that comes to ruin (Proverbs 18:24). Maybe we, as God’s people, should be the kind of friends who clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Maybe we should bear with each other through all circumstances and forgive one another because we have been so forgiven by God (Colossians 3:12-14). Maybe we should be the kind of friends who put on love, binding everything together in unity as we stand by our friends through thick and thin.
When we consider again why we are friends with our friends, may our answer be “for their sake over mine, for the mutual support, encouragement, love, and strength found in being together through all life brings.”
Let’s be the friends to each other that Jesus is to us-- faithful, present, gracious, loving, and loyal.
Photo credit: Unsplash
Publication date: November 3, 2017
Rachel Dawson is the design editor for Crosswalk.com.