Monday, October 6, 2008

What Kind of Friends Do You Have?

Luke 5: 17-26
One day some Pharisees and experts in the Law of Moses sat listening to Jesus teach. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

God had given Jesus the power to heal the sick, and some people came carrying a crippled man on a mat. They tried to take him inside the house and put him in front of Jesus. But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they went up on the roof, where they removed some tiles and let the mat down in the middle of the room. When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the crippled man, "My friend, your sins are forgiven."

The Pharisees and the experts began arguing, "Jesus must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins."

Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, "Why are you thinking that? Is it easier for me to tell this crippled man that his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and walk? But now you will see that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth." Jesus then said to the man, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk home."

At once the man stood up in front of everyone. He picked up his mat and went home, giving thanks to God. Everyone was amazed and praised God. What they saw surprised them, and they said, "We have seen a great miracle today!"

Over the years, one of the things I have become convinced of is that when it comes to having real friends, very few know what a real friend is. I say this because all around me I see people in need, and in the same observation, see those people getting little if any compassion from those around them. Then there is another truth, the other truth is I have experienced real friendship very few times in my life. I keep hearing from people who say they are friends, even have a few real friends, but experience shows me that most of us actually have very few real friends who are willing to make sacrifices like we see in this passage.

Many will talk about how people in the church are different, how they really are friends. I have to be honest; I don’t really see that much difference. Many churches have little if any programs in place to help their own people when needs arise, whether medical or financial, food or companionship, the truth is, we just don’t go out of the way to show our friends that we are in deed, their friends.

I love the story here in Luke because not only does it show the lack of concern of the religious people of Jesus day, but it also shows what real friendship is and supports the concept that Jesus does not think the religious community does enough in this area. These friends made an effort to help a friend, the religious community gets upset and sees property and religion as more important than people, and Jesus, well Jesus is cool about it all, he sets the record straight.

These friends are friends Jesus says good things about; they go out of their way to show what real friendship is. They go to see Jesus, see a crowd, climb to the top of a building, tear a hole in the roof, and rig up a device to lower their friend to Jesus because they believe Jesus can heal their friend. That is friendship!

What kind of excuses are we making to not help someone we know with food, how about paying a power bill? Know anyone who has a hard time getting to work because they can’t afford gas? Then there are the simple things, have anyone we could visit in a hospital? Know someone we can put up for a few nights because they don’t have a place to stay.

I am honored to say that my wife and I over the years have tried to be friends to others in need. We have had people live with us many times over the years, from homosexuals to drug addicts, and from prisoners from jail to musicians. We have been robbed, taken advantage of, and made sacrifices, yet, I don’t regret any of the decisions we have made. We have had people from the witness protection program to a former Hell’s Angel who later ended up dying from a drug overdose live with us, we have learned from them all, and loved them all. We are the ones who have been blessed because of our actions. I have purchased an ice cream for a perfect stranger and have purchased a meal for a person standing in line at a restaurant. There are many ways we can show love, love which has the potential to ultimately develop into friendship.

I have also been blessed to also experience friendship, friendship from all walks of life, Christian, non Christian, religious, non religious, from helping my wife go to her brothers funeral, to having food arrive at my house when we didn’t have money to purchase food. I am always blessed by those who pray for me and our ministry, but also those who will just sit and listen. Heck to be honest, I am blessed when think of people reading the things I write and then being willing to call, email, or leave a comment when they can do so. While I am convinced that we can all learn to be better friends to others, those friends that we do experience, that we do know, will be friends who will be willing to go to extremes to show us love for no other reason than they actually do love us.

With all of the above said, I still realize I can be a better friend than I have been. I think we all can. I hope we will be sensitive to those who need friends. May we realize that Jesus values those who are willing to make sacrifices for others, that is something a real friend does, may we all not only know what a real friend is, may we be one.

Thought for the day: A real friend does more than talk about helping in times of need, they help!

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