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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'll be a Friend Like Jesus

When I was growing up in church we sang a song entitled “I’ll be a Friend to Jesus.” It was all about loving Jesus when no one else would. But the more I think about it, the more it seems that Jesus was really good at making friends. He had no shortage of people who wanted to be his BFF (best friend forever). Jesus was constantly at dinner parties and surrounded by people who wanted to be with him. There was just something inherently friendly about Jesus. He had qualities that made people want to be with him.

Don’t always be the center of attention. Jesus knew when it was time to hang back and when it was time to take the lead. There were many parties where he was the focus and the honored guest. But when he went to a friend’s wedding, he let the bride and groom be the stars of the show. Even when Jesus performed a miracle, he kept it on the down-low so that the couple could continue to enjoy their wedding.

Want to be where the people are. Jesus often went off alone early in the morning or late at night. He knew the value of being by himself. But when he went to parties, he was in the midst of the crowd. He had conversations with Pharisees, tax collectors, teachers of the law, various sinners and even suspected prostitutes. Jesus was surrounded by people, not off in the corner hiding from conversation.

Speak the language of others. Instead of forcing everyone to talk about his topics of conversation, Jesus was able to have conversations on topics that were comfortable and familiar to the people around him. He would talk about farming or trading or politics as the situation dictated. If the people around him were deep into religious studies, he’d talk about that too. I’m convinced that if Jerusalem had a football team, Jesus would know the players and be able to talk about the game. He was well-rounded and able to converse on many different topics.

Know when to take the conversation deeper. Jesus had impeccable instincts for when to share a story or thought that would cut to the heart of an issue. When he was talking with the woman at the well in John 4, he effortlessly and insightfully found the real issues that were troubling her. He went from a surface-level conversation about the differences between Jews and Samaritans to a personal discussion of the woman’s faith and life. It takes time and skill to develop the instincts to take conversations to a deeper level; most of all, it takes a genuine love for people.

When you love people, you listen to them and want to hear what’s important to them. When they feel that love, they’ll be invited to open up and share deeper issues with you. Don’t force a conversation where it’s not going. Let it happen and be available when you friend is ready to talk.

Be comfortably awkward. Jesus brought an awkward presence wherever he went and he was comfortable with it. As a rabbi, it was uncommon for him to go and eat with those labeled as sinners. But he did it with complete confidence, not because it wasn’t awkward, but because he loved the people.

As a Christian, I’ve been to parties where I was an awkward presence, but I was comfortable with it because I loved (still do) the people at the party. Once we approached that awkward moment and moved past it, my friends were better able to see that I loved them more than I was worried about appearances.

Friendship doesn’t equate with condoning. Jesus was accused of condoning prostitution, embezzlement and blasphemy because he was friends with people who did those things. Never once did Jesus apologize or stop being friends with them. Neither did he condone things that were wrong.

I have friends who’ve done everything. I don’t condone sin, but I will continue to be their friends. I love them. It’s not my job to convince them that what they’re doing is wrong. It’s my job to be their friend. My condoning or not condoning their actions has no bearing on their lives or the lives of anyone else. What does, though, is how much I care about them and show it to them with my actions.

What other ways was Jesus a good friend? How can you be more like Jesus in your friendships? 

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