Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Great Friendships

One of the virtues that runs through J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings is the virtue of friendship.  It is obvious to anyone who has read the story that Tokien put a lot of value in the positive impact friendships can have in our lives.  One of the places this value is seen is during the selection process of people who will make up the fellowship.
‘But that will leave no place for us!’ cried Pippin in dismay. ‘We don’t want to be left behind. We want to go with Frodo.’

‘That is because you do not understand and cannot imagine what lies ahead,’ said Elrond.
‘Neither does Frodo,’ said Gandalf, unexpectedly supporting Pippin. ‘Nor do any of us see clearly. It is true that if these hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare go. But they would still wish to go, or wish that they dared, and be shamed and unhappy. I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom. Even if you chose for us an elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him’ (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; p. 310 ; emphasis added)

I would suggest that the desire for good strong friendship is a desire each one of us possesses. We long to have people in our lives that we can count on through thick and thin. People who we know will be there for us no matter what happens. People who we can love, serve, and with whom we live life.

Let’s face it, this world has hardship and pain in store for us. I am willing to be that if we received right now the detailed accounting of the rest of our lives each and every one of us would be afraid to continue. Our future holds the death of loved ones, the slow decay of our bodies, money problems, relationship issues, and various other struggles. The future is a scary place.

We can come up with answers and theories for all these various problems on this side of our lives, before we go through those trials, but those theories mean little once we get there. C. S. Lewis wrote the book The Problem of Pain which gave a logical and thought out answer to why a loving God allows pain and suffering in this world. Those answers provided little comfort as he dealt with his wife’s death and authored A Grief Observed.

What will get us through the through the tough times that lie ahead is not just wisdom and truth, but also the love and encouragement found in friendships. In the dark times in our lives what we need most are not answers to questions but companionship. We need people willing to come alongside of us and offer a word of encouragement, to serve us in our needs, and to show us they love us when the loneliness threatens to overwhelm us.

This type of companionship is to be found in the church.  Consider what the Bible says about what our relationships with other Christians should look like:
Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God’s law (Romans 13:8; NLT).

Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him ( Ephesians 5:1-2; NLT).

Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25; NLT).

We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person? (1 John 3:16-17; NLT)

God wants us to love each other.  So our church families should be refuges from the divisions, gossip, and hatred that plagues the world.  Yet, I believe that within this big picture we need a group of 5-10 fellow believers that we are intimately connected with, people we know have our backs. That is how we are going to make it through life.

God could have revealed to us all the secrets of the universe and given us all the wisdom we need to answer any question that came up as we live our lives. Instead God provide us with the church and from within the church He has provided us with friends. Great wisdom and knowledge are not the only provisions we need to get through this life, we also need great friendships.  I hope that you have a few.

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