Friendship=Sanctification: Part 1

>> Wednesday, January 27, 2010

“We’ve loaned them money twice,
and they’ve made no mention to pay it back.”
“I cooked her a meal when she was sick,
and now she won’t even return my phone call.”
“Their family is always in the spotlight. Makes me kind of sick.”
“She’s got so many friends, I’ll never be able to get close to her.”
“They let their kids watch _____, do _______, buy ______.
I would never do that!”
“They shelter their kids too much.”
“She’s more talented than me.”
“They’ve got more money and too much stuff, if you ask me.”
“She doesn’t respect my time, my property or my values.”
“She’s hyper-spiritual.”
“He’s not spiritual enough.”
“They go to THAT church.”
“I can’t believe she went back to work. What about her kids?”
“If they really loved us, they’d call us or invite us over more often.”
"She spends too much time on Facebook."

And on and on and on, it goes…Where it stops? The Lord only knows. And certainly, only the Lord Himself has the ability to help us sort through our thinking regarding our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Of all the correspondence I receive in ministry, rocky relationships with other Christians, mainly friends are #2 in rank, (pain and suffering being 1st). The irony is that with each email or phone call I get, I am at a place where I can relate in some way. Why? Partly because friendships are hard, requiring sacrifice and unconditional love. But the main reason why is because the enemy knows we are vulnerable in this area, prone to feelings of rejection and attitudes of entitlement. Through the messages tossed around and about this world we live, he spreads lies and ideals that begin to make sense to us after hearing them for so long, begging us to believe that the Lord is far removed to guide us in these matters.

I wish I could say I was a pillar of credibility on this subject, but alas, my thoughts slice and dice as sharply as the next gal’s, and my feelings get hurt on a regular basis. All I know is that it’s an area the Lord keeps bringing to the forefront of my thinking through the convicting power of His Word, so let’s examine it together:
Colossians 2:12-15, New Living Translation
“Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”
This is pretty straightforward, but let’s first look at what it doesn’t say. First of all, in this passage, it’s written to those “in the Body of Christ,” so it is not referring to our relationships with non-Christians. That’s a whole ‘nother subject. Secondly, it doesn’t say “be a doormat and let everyone walk all over you.” You can show mercy and kindness and make allowance for other’s faults without being in constant turmoil with them. This is about mutual peace and unity in the Body. Again, another topic for another day.

But look at the list of quotes above. Every single one boils down to either being offended, unforgiving, prideful, unmerciful, entitled, divisive, calloused or impatient. And none of them reflect an attitude of thankfulness.

I know this is a messy, muddy topic. No two situations or relationships are alike, so there’s a tendency to think that you are all alone in yours. And that is exactly what many will tell you if you turn to any wisdom other than His to make you feel better.“You should not have to put up with that. You are better than that,” they will tell you. “You’ve been so patient, giving, giving, giving. Enough is enough.”

God’s advice is different. His desire is for our friendships to be a good thing, but He calls us to redefine what a “good thing” is. Our friendships have the potential to make us more holy. See verse 12? “Since God chose you to be holy people He loves…” When we love His way, it will make us more holy. And though being happy is a wonderful blessing, being holy is His first desire. In this language, friendship = sanctification, which is His idea of a good thing.

Look at the rest of the passage in Colossians 2: “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom He gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

The Lord is getting practical with us here. HE wants to be the substance in our lives.
He gave us friendships to enrich our lives, but He wants to be the One to fill our lives.
See the difference? Our relationships do not make us who we are…HE makes us who we are. And because He is the One filling us, we can teach and counsel each other with His wisdom. Because He is the One providing for us, we should exude thankfulness.

One last observation. The word “let…” An act of surrender is required here. Loving our friends requires intentionality, a willingness and willfulness to do relationships His way. This won’t happen on its own or even overnight. We must pray for help, be in the Word, refuse the world’s advice and FIGHT the battle that wages war in our thoughts and emotions with every resource He has given us, and every day.

So if the above thought bubbles were to burst and be replaced with His way of doing things, what might they say? Stop here if you need to ponder this with the Lord on your own and process His words above. For those who may need some practical guidance, here’s some examples:

“We’ve loaned them money twice, and they’ve made no mention to pay it back.”
“I cooked her a meal when she was sick, and now she won’t even return my phone call.”

Maybe instead,
“I’m so thankful the Lord used us to help them out. He has provided for our needs time and again.”

“Their family is always in the spotlight. Makes me kind of sick.”
Maybe instead,
“I need to remember to pray for them. To whom much is given, much will be expected, and I’m sure being in the spotlight has challenges I’m not aware of.”

“She’s got so many friends, I’ll never be able to get close to her.”
Maybe instead,
“Lord, You are the One who fills me up and meets my needs. Help me to be here if she needs a hand or a prayer, but I would be truly thankful if You would lead me to an available friend to do life with on a regular basis.”

“They let their kids watch _____, do _______, buy ______. I would never do that!”
“They shelter their kids too much.”

Maybe instead,
“Examine my motives, Lord. And if you prompt me to give counsel or ask hard questions of my friends, give me the courage and correct words to do so. Otherwise, help me not to judge or meddle…because You may be working in ways I don’t understand or see.”

What thoughts do you need to ask the Lord to cross out and replace in you? Pray. Ask the Lord to get personal with you on this subject, revealing any sin, pettiness or pride. We are called to be holy, my friends, and what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t share what He’s been showing me on the subject?

Let’s allow the Lord to sanctify us through and through in our friendships, and Lord, may it begin with me.

***We'll keep diving into the mud on this subject, so stay tuned! Or if you prefer, this is a series I started on my website edevo can sign up to receive them HERE.


Peter Stone January 27, 2010 at 5:59 PM  

"What thoughts do I need to ask the Lord to cross out and replace in you?" Umm, quite a few...great post, I'm praying already...
Thx Laura.

Anna,  January 27, 2010 at 8:32 PM  

Great job, Laura! Thank you for sharing this. There are so many valid points that need to be reminders to us daily.

Col. 2:12 is one of my favorite Scriptures. It says a lot in so few words.

Sharlyn Guthrie January 29, 2010 at 3:03 PM  

These are excellent points. I like your practical suggestions for what to think/say/pray instead.

Joanne Sher January 31, 2010 at 12:39 PM  

I need this. TODAY (and every other day, but that's beside the point). Judging comes WAY to easily to me. Thank you, dear friend.

Marita February 6, 2010 at 10:01 PM  

LaLeePop...Laura hun...I want to hear you speak. I feel it burning in your heart.

Someday... i truly hope someday.


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