Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Hit List

“But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" -Luke 6:27 One of God's greatest tools for discipleship is friendship. Two brothers or sisters form an amazing bond when their hearts meld together. Just ask Jonathon and David. Their friendship is described beautifully in Scripture. Or, just ask yourself how much those few life-long friendships in your life make a difference. But as rich and fulfilling as friendships can be, when they are damaged, the hurt is deep and the consequences are difficult. I knew a friend had been struggling in a friendship and I ask him how things were going between them. "Oh, I've been put on his Hit List." I asked him to clarify. "Well, he won't return my calls or my emails. I've been checked off his list. We're done." I was pretty sure I knew who he was talking about and my heart grieved as I heard his anguish. Friendships falter all the time. But it seems there is never a legitimate reason to "pull the plug" on a friendship. Never. Are we supposed to be deep brothers and sisters with everyone? No. We're not to spend all our time trying to add to our friendship total (look out Facebook friends). But we are to be friends with all we meet. And, we're called to maintain those friendships. Scripture seems clear that if we encounter a problem with a friend, we're supposed to deal with it. If we don't, our very relationship with God is damaged until the mending takes place. Jesus said in Matthew 6:15, “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you." What he means is as long as we harbor anger or resentment towards a friend, we cannot experience (though we're forgiven) God's forgiveness. Oscar Wilde said, "true friends stab you in the front." And I think that's the problem. A true friend "speaks truth in love" (Eph. 4:15), feelings get hurt and reconciliation never takes place. And Satan throws a party. Sad. Someone holds on to justified resentment (hmmm) and days turn in to weeks which turn in to years. Right after Jesus talked about being a true "light to the world" and right before he talked about divorce, he talked about friendships in Matthew 5:22-25, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." Later on in Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus also said, " If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you". “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Both of which Jesus loved dearly, by the way). Friendships are all about love and maintenance. And they work both ways. If a brother hurts us, we need to go to him and right the wrong. We work it out. It's difficult, but necessary. And, if we sense a brother is angry with us, we go to him. Or, at least we try. We can't control whether they'll take our phone call or accept our invitation to lunch. But we do our best. Paul said in Romans, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." We can only try. Aristotle said, "A friend to all is a friend to none." Count your true friends and treasure them. Do the maintenance work necessary to keep them current. Love them and if you harbor anger or resentment, go to them- even if it's been years. Share your heart and you will be the one set free. Paul said in Romans 12:17-18, "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." My translation: it's never okay to harbor anger towards someone. Period. I think Joseph understood as he forgave his brothers. Take the challenge. Clean the slate. Make the phone call. Deal with it. Accept Paul's call in Ephesians 4: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." And throw the Hit List in the trashcan. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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