I haven’t written in a few weeks. It’s been a very hard few weeks for me. Some hard decisions. I’ve heard some really hard, and really hurtful things in the past few weeks. And to be quite honest…I haven’t had anything in the tank to write. But I think I do now. But this is pretty unpolished. It’s pretty raw. Because right now, I’m pretty unpolished. I’m pretty raw.
I shouldn’t have to write more than the title. I really shouldn’t. Friendship shouldn’t be all that hard. You should have people in your life that you love and trust, and you should be a safe person that they can also love and trust. That seriously shouldn’t be that hard.
But it is. It just is.
We get hurt. We say things we don’t mean. We don’t say what we should. It sounds an awful lot like Romans 7 (which you should take a few minutes to go read it, I’ll be here when you get back).
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Indeed. I am thankful that in spite of being a jerk on a frighteningly regular basis that God still loves me. God still forgives me. God still gives me second, third, and fourth chances. It’s hard to imagine that this is possible.
Peter once struggled with this notion. He said (paraphrasing here), “Jesus, just how often should I forgive someone?” Jesus’ response is popular. “7 times 70.” Okay, so 490 times. I better start keeping track.
There’s a really good chance (although I definitely admit that I could be wrong here) that Jesus is alluding to Daniel 9 where Daniel recounts a prophecy concerning 70 weeks. What are seventy weeks but seventy periods of seven? So, and I could be wrong here, it seems that Jesus is telling Peter to forgive until the seventy weeks of Daniel have come. What is Daniel referring to? The end of time. So Jesus takes Peter’s offer of 7 forgiven mistakes and expands it to forgiving mistakes until the end of the world. Because that’s what God does. Because he loves us so much (Eph 2).
So we’re supposed to do the same thing. We’re supposed to forgive until it hurts. Then forgive more. When the world hates us, we take solace in the fact that it hated Him first (John 15:18).
We will always fail at this (remember Romans 7?). But did you maybe cheat and read past Romans 7? You should. See, Paul goes on at length about his own failures, and then rejoices that Jesus will deliver him from this body of death. Guess what comes next? Paul, arguably the best Christian who has ever lived has just admitted to being an idiot on a regular basis. Then he says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”*
Yes. So much yes. There aren’t words to describe the amount of yes that I want to attribute to that phrase. I’m stupid. I’m a jerk. Regularly. Daily. Habitually. But God forgives me. This isn’t a license to sin. Paul addresses that as well in Romans. This is freedom to be yourself in a relationship with your creator. This is freedom to not walk on eggshells around him, waiting for the other shoe to drop. There is no other shoe. Maybe God’s barefoot. Who knows. The point is that you don’t have to live in fear in your relationship with him. He accepted you warts and all. You didn’t make it in on a technicality. He wasn’t busy talking to a cool person at the party and you snuck in the back door. Nope. He invited you personally.
So let’s get back to Peter. Jesus asks the same level of forgiveness from us that he extends to us. Remember the Lord’s Prayer? Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us. He wants us to forgive as much as he forgives. And that means being really patient with some really stupid people. Don’t get offended. I’m one of those really stupid people. We all are. That’s why it’s so hard. Life would be much easier if God let us write each other off. But he doesn’t. He asks us to live in community.
So…be a good friend. Don’t ever say, “I’ll be your friend if…” Nope. You just killed it. Those two little words are poisonous. You just put conditions on what should be unconditional. That’s not the love that God gives you, so don’t you dare for a second of your life give something less than that to someone else. Don’t. Ever. Don’t ever. Because it hurts more than you could possibly know. It says, “You are worth exactly this much to me. I’ll tolerate your existence if you are willing to submit to my rules.” I wonder if we say that to people precisely because that’s what we think God says to us. But he doesn’t. Read Romans 7-8. Read all of Romans, actually. Read the New Testament. Find a place where God says, “I’ll love you if.” It isn’t there. Because it isn’t in him. That’s not his character, so it shouldn’t be ours.
So don’t ever say that….and be gracious to all the people who do. Ouch. That hurt. That hurt me. Part of not putting conditions on friendship is not expecting the other person to return the favor. So let them put their expectations on you. And meet them if you can. As far as it pertains to you, be at peace with all people (Romans 12:18…seriously, Romans is pretty fan-freaking-tastic). But don’t expect them to do the same (for more about that, see Bear your own stinkin burden already). Be a good friend. Not because they deserve it. They don’t, and neither do you. Be a good friend because God is a good friend (John 15:15).
*There’s a textual variant here. Some translations read, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the spirit.”
Why? Because that completely contradicts what Paul is trying to say. He just confessed that he doesn’t live according to the spirit, and he doesn’t live according to the spirit all the dang time. He’s always messing up. It makes no sense that he would follow that chapter up