Say it out loud:
When you hear the word being expressed from your lips, images from the past begin to flood your mind. Yearbook pictures, sleepovers, late night telephone conversations, football games, happy hours, getaway weekends and girls’ nights out.
For many of us, negative memories may also come rushing in as you hear that word: outbursts, fights, the cold shoulder, a broken heart.
Once in awhile, as you embark upon a new school year, start a new job, play for a new softball team or enter into a new bible study group, the word friend ushers in thoughts of hope and new beginnings—the possibility of friendships to come, and rich relationships to be gained. While you haven’t met these individuals yet, your mind starts to race and imagine what your future friends might be wearing, the types of places where you will be hanging out together, the different foods you’ll be sharing—you can almost hear the sounds of your collective laughter.
Say it out loud:
What is often missed in the articulation and hearing of this word is the vision of the friend in need. Rarely when we hear the word friend do we imagine ourselves in the company of the homeless, the mentally ill, the imprisoned, the abused, or the elderly.
Often when we think of individuals who are down and out, they are still the other—tragic people in need of assistance and charity. You immediately assume that they need you more than you need them. You think to yourself that if anyone needs a Savior, it is most certainly them.
What you never do is imagine or think of them as your friends. They are merely subjects and objects of your benevolence project at church or your community philanthropy group.
Does that make us bad people?
After all, we go to church every week, we donate money every month to charity, and we even organize the occasional workday with Habitat for Humanity. We put all of our energies into being good people, because certainly, that is the type of friend that God wants, right? A good person, right?
Oftentimes, we pray to God earnestly and search the scriptures about how we can become a closer friend to Him. Before going to bed, we turn off the TV, lie under the covers, and start having a conversation with this deity with whom we claim to have a personal relationship. You close your eyes smugly, and think, Ahh, I just had a conversation with God. He truly is my friend. This is what it is like to be a good person.
Never does it cross your mind that to be a friend to your Creator, you must be a friend to His creation.
Jesus is already here on earth, embodied in the tattered clothes of the homeless man you briskly walk by on the way to work every day. In the eighteen year old mom who serves you coffee every morning, who works to feed two little mouths back at home. In the elderly man bagging groceries for you because his social security check can’t make ends meet.
If you want to be a friend to Jesus, you must be a friend to them. The other. The people you pass over each day.
A future friend is not just someone you stumble upon at a dinner party, or get seated next to at a wedding.
A future friend is someone who you see everyday at the grocery store, who is choked by the worries of this world. A future friend is someone at a shelter, who no one else will befriend.
A future friend is not necessarily someone who is dressed to the nines, with a martini glass in her hand.
Say it out loud:
Are you ready to be a friend to people who are truly in need of a friend?
Are you read to pray to the Lord to reveal a new friend to you?
Are you ready to change your definition of friend?
New International Version (NIV)
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”