I haven’t always had a lot of friends. For a long time, I only had a lot of “acquaintances.” Matthew 5:47 helped me to recognize the difference.
“If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?
Ouch. I was (and still sometimes am) guilty of only engaging would-be friends with superficial small talk. Afraid to open up for fear of rejection, I dance around deeper subjects, missing the opportunity to fully engage with God’s fellow children. When I make this mistake, I am missing out on experiencing one of our Father’s greatest gifts: friendship. We can be certain that God intended us to have friends on this earth; Scripture is full of friendship references, and the word “friend” appears approximately 107 times (depending on the version of the Word.)
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure. – Sirach 6:14
The heartfelt counsel of a friend
is as sweet as perfume and incense. – Proverbs 27:9
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Friendships are typically born out of common circumstances, social circles, and proximity, but sometimes God steps in and creates “unlikely” friendships. Perhaps the most compelling story of unlikely friendship in the Bible, is that of Simon of Cyrene. Mentioned in 3 of the 4 gospels as the man selected from the crowd to carry the Cross of Jesus Christ, Simon of Cyrene was a passerby, a traveler, headed to Jerusalem for the Passover. He had no idea that he would become a friend to Jesus Christ, literally helping Him to carry His Cross that fateful day.
Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Mark 15:21
True friends are like that. Whether we’ve known them for years, or we just met them minutes ago, true friends “carry the Cross” of another. Some people’s Crosses are visible, while others are hidden from sight, but one thing is certain; we all have a Cross to bear, and we all need a friend to help us bear it. A listening ear, a tender touch, a silent prayer, a grocery bill paid, or an extra moment spared, are all simple ways to help carry the burdens of another.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love another. – 1 John 4:11
When we take the time to truly acknowledge, listen, and recognize the needs of another, we too receive God’s blessings, and the benefits of friendship.
As Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
My prayer as we head into tomorrow is that we all take the time to acknowledge, listen, and really pay attention to those around us, and that we travel beyond small talk and “niceties” to engage in true friendship, even to the point of bearing the Cross of an “unlikely” friend.