We may be able to get away with having shallow friends by limiting our interactions to casual greetings and encouraging statements. Truly loving your friends, however, takes active, deliberate and unpredictable involvement in their lives. It is a courageous choice because:
- People are unpredictable, so loving your friends will bring surprises.
- People are inconsistent, so loving your friends will cause hurt and misunderstandings.
- People are still developing, so loving your friends will involve disappointments.
- People are valuable, so loving your friends will touch your heart.
But how exactly do you get involved in your friends’ lives?
When Friends Surprise You
Jason is a good friend of mine. We both love our families, strive to stay active and are crazy about sports. These common interests make it easy to spend time with one another, which leads to lots of laughter and good memories. We decided to serve together on the board of a youth sports league since our kids were involved and we loved sports. As the president of the board, I was responsible for the cohesiveness and cooperation among board members. Since Jason was a close friend, I assumed he would be easy to work with.
You can imagine my surprise when he lit up one of the other board members in the gym on game day in the presence of parents and players. He accused the fellow board member of being self-seeking, uncooperative and devious. None of these were true, but it became painfully obvious that the two rubbed each other the wrong way.
I had a decision to make. Do I ask Jason to quit the board and limit my interaction with him, or do I get involved and help him work through whatever set him off?
The Value Of Imperfect Friends
Friendship demanded that I get involved because imperfect friends are the only ones available in this world. Jason and I met later that week for coffee to talk through what happened.
It turned out Jason had a rough time with an officer in the armed forces, and our fellow board member had many of the same traits as that difficult officer. We were able to talk through the hurt he had experienced and how it gets triggered by certain behaviors in others. It was inconvenient having to spend extra time on this issue, but we were able to put together a simple plan for keeping him on the board. His sincere apology and renewed commitment to the success of the league strengthened the league and deepened our friendship.
Loving Our Friends Like Jesus
When we decide to get involved with all that it means to have imperfect friends, we imitate our Savior. As Philippians 2:5-8 states:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
So what was Jesus’ mindset when it comes to relationships? From this passage, we discover the following:
- Jesus didn’t become human for His own sake but for ours.
- His human experience was an act of service to benefit us.
- Jesus became human so He would know what life was like for us.
- His human experience was humbling and inefficient for Him.
- Ultimately, Jesus’ involvement resulted in deep, lasting joy.
In similar fashion, we can love our friends by:
- Spending time with them when it is easy and when it is inconvenient.
- Focusing on ways to benefit them.
- Growing in our understanding of what their lives are like.
- Accepting that involvement in other’s lives will be humbling and inefficient at times.
- Dwelling on the fact that a deep, lasting joy will enhance every area of our lives.
Jason and I met recently and he asked, “Bill, do you remember when … ?” and recounted that awkward day. We shared a good laugh over a scene that wasn’t very funny at the time, but formed the foundation of a lifetime friendship.
You may also be interested in Choosing Quality Over Quantity When It Comes To Friendship