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  • From the Cedar Street Times, Pacific Grove

What Does God Say About Friendship and Forgiveness?

Are we meant to be social, to have friends and family? Gen 2:18, “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” God knows we need friends and family. God is calling each of us to lovingly encourage each other toward good works and away from evil ones, 1 Thes 5:14-15, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” Does God use our friendships to improve our character? Is this why He encourages us to come together regularly? Heb 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Is this part of the reason for church families? Prov 27:17, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Are we stronger and more able to withstand the stresses of this world when we have loving friends? Eccl 4:12, “And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Can we feel alone when we are in the middle of a crowd? Even ones who call us their friend? It is not the number of people around us, it is the love those people show us that removes the feeling of loneliness. What exactly is loneliness? Is it the feeling of separation from God the Father and His love, which Jesus felt the moment before He gave up the ghost, Mk 15:34, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” We might not understand that feeling of angst we are living with, but when we follow God’s advice about friendships, it leads us to His love. God gives us friendships so that we might better understand our relationship with Him. When friends are following God’s path, we feel the love and strength of being their friend. We feel their love because they are not trying to get us to love them; they are showing their love for us. There is an old saying, “if you want to have a good friend, be a good friend.” When we love others, unconditionally, as God loves us, others will feel our love and love us back; and that feeling of angst we have been living with will dissipate, leading us to experience God’s peace, Jn 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” God helps us understand why we love Him, 1 Jn 4:19, “We love him, because he first loved us” and it leads us to God and His plan for our lives.

God’s plan has always included friends. God wants us to know Abraham was following God, so God called Abraham His friend, Is 41:8, “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.” God defines friendship as the unselfish love of another, Jn 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Who do we know who would be willing to lay down part of their life for us? We can count that person, our friend! Laying down our lives for our friends might mean dying to protect them, as firemen and police officers do. However, it can also mean something as simple as choosing to do what our friend wants us to do, or something our friend needs us to do, rather than satisfying our own desires, Ruth 2:11, “And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore.” Ruth sacrificed part of her life for her mother-in-law, and God rewarded her for it.

Mk 10:45, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Jesus came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give parts of His life as sacrifices for others, and to be our example, 1 Jn 3:16, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” and 1 Jn 2:6, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Jesus was always thinking of others, sacrificing for others; however, He always made those sacrifices while remaining in the will of the Father, Jn 4:34, “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” He never used His ministering as an excuse to walk away from God’s calling for His life. We cannot let our friendships lead us away from God's plan for our lives. God wants us to minister to one another, Rom 12:15, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” And, there are times we just need to comfort each other.

Jn 15:15, “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” Jesus calls us His friends because He has shared all the Father told Him, He kept no secrets. He now asks us, His friends, to share the Father with everyone we meet, so they too can become His friend, Matt 28:19-20, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." and Matt 12:50, “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” God calls us to be His friends and part of His family!

Can we have the kind of relationships God calls us to, without forgiveness? What would our relationships be like without forgiveness? According to Merriam-Webster, when we forgive someone, "we voluntarily give up our indignant displeasure or persistent ill will for them." These sound like strong feelings. But, what does God say about forgiveness?

Matt 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Can we say Jesus is our friend and not forgive others? Truly believing in Jesus means we begin the process of transforming into His likeness, a process called sanctification, 1 Jn 2:6, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” which means we have to forgive others, as He forgave even those who put Him on the cross, Lk 23:34, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.”

Why is forgiveness so important to God? Jesus sent Paul, Acts 26:18, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Jesus taught forgiveness, and the fruit of the Spirit as evidence of our own sanctification and part of the light shed into the darkness of another person’s life? When we choose to forgive, we are giving up the displeasure and ill will that had fueled our hatred. The way we feel and the actions we take will have changed. This not only brings us a taste of God’s love but also brings it to everyone around us. Our darkness and theirs begin to fade in the light of God’s love.

When we have faith and forgive, as God has asked us to, we will witness the good God can produce from the evil men intend. Will God not judge all of us someday? Rev 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Yes, He will judge all of us, but He is asking us not to judge each other, which enables us to forgive those who have sinned against us, Lk 6:37, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” It is through forgiveness that we are able to harness God’s power to love as He loves, freeing the sinners from their guilt and us from our hatred. Guilt and hatred are tools of the devil, not the fruit of the Spirit of God, Eph 5:9, “(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)”

This friend we have in Jesus desires all to come to Him and to become His friend. He proved that when He told us, Lk 15:4-7, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” He has a reckless, unconditional, never-ending love for every one of us. He is gentle, kind, forgiving, and willing to do anything, within the Will of the Father, for our salvation. He waits for every last one of us to come home to Him, as the father did in the story of the prodigal son, Lk 15:20, “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” The only thing separating us from Him is our own free will. He has done all the hard work, all we need to do is come to understand His love for us, repent from our sins and accept His eternal love. He came for all of us, Lk 5:32, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” because we are all sinners, Rom 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” and need His salvation. Could we ever find a better friend?

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