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"Keep your friends close but your enemies closer."
This famous quote by Michael Corleone in the classic film The Godfather: Part II may in part explain the thinking of our Lord Jesus in His friendship with His betrayer, Judas. Keeping a watchful eye on our adversaries enables us to be aware of their subtle maneuverings in trying to bring us harm.
While Jesus was a "friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Matt. 11:19, NKJV) in order to reach them with the gospel, He remained vigilant concerning the tactics of those trying to undermine His life and ministry.
We must do likewise in the midst of our increasingly hostile post-Christian culture. Some who may currently be our enemies may be reached as we engage them in winsome ways. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?"
Others who are hardened in their hearts need to be handled differently and charitably confronted for their devious ways. In our battles for the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage, we are obligated to unmask the euphemisms used to cover what is destroying the foundations of our nation. And as Christians awaken and do this, we can expect the intensity of the battle will only increase.
All the more reason why we must seize this period of relative calm to cultivate strong biblical friendships for the difficult days ahead. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, "Two are better than one. … For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to lift him up." Remember the famous words of Helen Keller: "I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than all alone in the light."
God is calling us to go deeper with one another while being realistic that genuine friendships take time. Time invested leads to trust, and trust built leads to togetherness. As Aristotle said, "Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit."
A Friendship Checklist
Muhammad Ali said, "Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything."
The following is a list of 10 biblical characteristics of friendship. In these increasingly trying times, let's suspend any notion of friendship as being something that is merely superficial.
Daily, I get messages like the following on my smartphone: "Joe Schmoe wants to be friends on Facebook. You have 37 friends in common." As we proceed, know that this is not the depth of friendship I mean!
1. Friends are few. Proverbs 18:24 says, "A man of many companions may come to ruin" (ESV). I think it was John Maxwell who once said there are four levels of friendship:
- Just friends (social)
- Rust friends (older ones; some keep and some let go)
- Trust friends (confidants and counselors)
- Must friends (circle of a few lifelong gifts from God)
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