Friendship is something I take seriously. When I make a friend, I consider them friends-for-life whether we see each other every day or if it’s been 20 years, I think of them as someone I can pick back up like we haven’t missed a step. I recently had a wonderful conversation with a friend over video chat and I haven’t spoken face-to-face with them in several years. We had a great hour long talk about family, friends, faith, covid and vaccines, but also about loss. Loss of friends and strained relationships with family.
We named names and lamented. He said a friend decided to block him on Facebook which meant he probably wouldn’t ever get to have their friendship anymore.
Before I move on, I want everyone reading to know that I don’t hold much respect for social media, so being blocked online isn’t the end of the world for me…but I digress…
I could relate because I had this other friend. We talked about him too. Not disparagingly, but just lamenting. This other friend and I were pretty close buddies. We did a lot together in college. I don’t want to share his name and I hope sharing some of this doesn’t deepen the rift. I defended him when others thought he was a jerk. There was a time when he was sick and I illegally let him stay in my dorm room for a while without paying. He—if I say this you’ll know who it is and it could cause him issues so I won’t say this part but he was a very important part of a special moment. We had good times together, nay, great times. Fun times together!
We also had disagreements. Friends can have disagreements and then move on and still be friends. But I guess we can’t…or at least he can’t. Because one day he just stopped replying to me. I couldn’t contact him and I needed to know if he was okay and I was worried about him. I found out later from his wife that they decided they were moving on and I didn’t fit with their future.
I was crushed.
I guess every now and then I am still crushed by it when I think about it. Here is someone whom I could have let go when the world was against him and he was saying and doing things he shouldn’t have. But I wanted to be an example and show that friends don’t do that. They have honest and frank conversations and speak the truth to one another even when it hurts.
Why am I bringing this up? It reminded me of some thoughts about who we are in Christ. What kind of people we are in the world—how we are to be different than the world around us. James writes some pretty scathing things to people who have decided that they would rather live and be liked by the world than to live holy lives as Christ has called us. He says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God…” [James 4:4 ESV]
Some of our conversation was about how we’ve watched our peers drift in their faith and their worldviews. But maybe they were always in that direction and we just never noticed. I do know that there was some hints from my departed friend that he wasn’t going to stand by me through our differences. One time he told me that “I was a joke and no one took me seriously.” That hurt but I had to reflect on why they believed that. It had to do with my view on an orthodox, historic teaching of the church. My view was “outdated” and “legalistic” according to these people who thought I was a joke. To the historic Christian faith “…once for all delivered to the saints…” I was continuing to teach and contend for that faith. I was continuing to teach the truth but it was they who were subverting and teaching new and false doctrines.
It isn’t legalistic to teach what is true.
We were warned that false prophets and teachers would creep into the church unnoticed and allowed to spread their new teaching. As Ephesians 4 says for me to do, I will teach the truth in love. I don’t want to allow people to be stuck in teaching that will take them away from God’s commands. However, this doesn’t mean people are going to listen or even take you seriously. But that doesn’t mean we conform to their worldview or their theology and doctrine.
Since we are talking about friends, I had another friend (friend #3) remind me that as I was growing up I had mentors and they were the age I was now. I listened to them for a reason. He assured me that I have wisdom to share and I should be sharing it with everyone. Those who are willing to listen will continue to listen and something I say might be exactly what they need to hear. I suppose that is why I continue to share writing online—in hopes that there is someone out in the world who needs to hear what I am saying.
Much of what I say is reflective of the North American viewpoint and should be read in that context, but there are people from all over the world who read this website and the articles within and so to those people I pray that some nugget of wisdom is helpful in their context, be it in China, Russia, Bangladesh, Israel, or Pakistan…or the many other places in the world where I have seen readers appear.
So to my friend who I spoke with the other day, I just want to say keep standing strong in the faith. You never know whom you will touch with your ideas and you have a friend here who will continue to speak with you.
To the friend who decided I am not his friend anymore, I hope he is happy in his life. I wish he would repent and reconsider but I won’t force him. That’s his choice. When he was called names and not taken seriously, I defended him. When I was called names and considered a joke, he bailed on me.
To the many people out there who think they are doing right by veering from the historic faith as spoken in Scripture (all of it) I hope they repent and come back to Christ. Their souls depend on it. And to their churches, I hope they realize that affirming sin isn’t the way to win converts. They aren’t converting to Christ if they will not die to themselves and take up their crosses daily.
To all the many people who read this website on a regular basis, thank you. I hope something I say is helping you build up your faith. Reach out to me if you need it. I read the comments.
To all the saints in the Kingdom, stand for the truth. Persevere in the faith even when the world laughs at you, thinks you’re a joke, even blocks you online, or decides not to be your friend anymore. Your faith in God should be your number one priority. Jesus said we would be “hated by all for my (Jesus’) name’s sake…by your endurance you will gain your lives.” [Luke 21:17-19 ESV]
One last thing.
Call this an addendum. No one is required to be friends with everyone. No one is required to be online friends with everyone. No one is required to keep your online forums public. I have many people blocked on Facebook. It isn’t because I am being hypocritical and won’t be friends with them. I do it because they post things that are terrible and blasphemous. I don’t ever want to see it. But if they ever wanted to talk, I would sit and break bread with them. But I would also teach and disciple them and not put up with gross things they say. We can also be discerning in our consumption of sinful behavior. So please don’t think I am saying there is never a time or place to step away from people. Just the other day someone I know (call them another friend) posted some really gross things about God. I’m not going to have them pop up in my news feed where I see those things…so I blocked them.
I don’t want to end this article on a negative so let me end with this Scripture and hopefully this will encourage you in what your purpose should be as followers of Jesus:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” [Romans 12:1-2 ESV]
Great article Mike. I appreciated reading it and can relate to what you’re going through. I see how much many of the people we went to college with have changed and I often wonder if I would still be friends with them in this day and age if we were in closer proximity. It hurts to see people that I cared about change so much for the worse and see that they’ve fallen in to the trap of believing in what the world says is acceptable instead of what the Bible says is acceptable. My wife and I fear for our three young kids growing up in this world that tells them pretty much everything is acceptable nowadays and if you don’t support that then you’re a bigot. We’re doing our best to raise them to show Christ’s love but also not to accept sin because the world tells us we should. So again thank you for your words and putting it out there for everyone to read. I appreciate it.
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Thanks Darren! It has been difficult for me too for the same reasons.