September 5, 2011
I Need a Friend Part 4
But Ruth replied, ‘Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.’ When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her (Ruth 1:16-18, NIV).
Friend to Friend
Friendship is the catalyst for every other love and the foundation of every healthy relationship. God created us to need each other. We need friends and we need to be a friend. Over the next few weeks, we will uncover nine keys to healthy friendships.
Key one: Time
Key two: Risk
Key three: Transparency
Key four: Touch
Key five: Correction
Key six: Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a spiritual truth and principle that, as Christians, we teach, preach and encourage. Forgiveness is also easier said than done. Yet, the very foundation for godly life is integrity. If we cannot forgive, we have no spiritual integrity.
Naomi was Ruth’s mother-in-law and after a close examination of their circumstances, you can imagine the potential for conflict in their relationship. Naomi was a godly woman whose son had married Ruth, a woman who did not worship God. Yet, they loved each other. Forgiveness had to be part of their friendship. Forgiveness has to be part of every friendship. The first step taken in the process of forgiveness is always our responsibility while the outcome and the healing are God’s responsibility. Paul writes in Colossians 3:13 that we must “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” To “bear with” means to “put up with” and “grievances” means “complaints.” In other words, we are to put up with any complaints we have with each other without retaliation or revenge. There’s more. The verse goes on to tell us to forgive like Jesus did – which means taking the initiative in forgiving as well as being quick to give and receive forgiveness.
We often make the mistake of thinking forgiveness depends upon feelings, rights, justification or a variety of other man-made excuses. Forgiveness is a deliberate choice, a chosen attitude and a discipline of the heart and will. In fact, forgiveness is a choice that leads to an action that may or may not result in a feeling. A friend of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, once reminded her of an especially cruel act that someone had done to her years before, but Miss Barton seemed not to recall it. “Don’t you remember?” her friend asked. “No,” replied Clara Barton. “I distinctly remember forgetting it.” Healthy friendships practice forgiveness.
Key seven: Freedom
Healthy friendships are relationships where each person gives the other room to grow and change. Instead of possessing their friends, they encourage them to grow and change. Paul says it simply and clearly, “Love is not possessive” (I Corinthians 13:4). The friendship of Ruth and Naomi certainly demonstrates this kind of freedom. Naomi was willing to let Ruth start a whole new life that did not even include her. Naomi gave Ruth the gift of freedom and, as a result, gained a friendship beyond measure. Neither Ruth nor Naomi was sure of the future, but they both knew there would be changes. They also knew that their friendship was secure enough to withstand those changes. Notice that Naomi gave Orpah freedom to leave and did not condemn her when she left. Naomi gave Orpah the gift of freedom as well, with different but right results.
When a person changes, their relationships will also change. If friendship falters when one friend changes, the relationship is likely built upon the wrong foundation and operates with erroneous motives. The heart of every healthy friendship has a thread of elastic running through it. Without the freedom to change and grow, friendship becomes a prime target for jealousy. Jealousy can ruin and has ruined many friendships because jealousy feeds on unrealistic expectations and is the result of overloading one relationship with emotional needs that only God can satisfy. True friends give each other freedom. It is from that freedom that a deeper friendship, a healthier relationship will grow.
I am acutely aware of those who want to be my friend because of what they believe they can gain from a relationship with the pastor’s wife - access to ministry “secrets”, a sense of importance, admission into “the inner circle.” I am constantly amazed by this ridiculous mindset and fully believe it is an affront to the Kingdom and the very heart of God. I have the solution. Have a “Pedestal Burning Party.” It doesn’t matter who put that pedestal in place. Pedestals are stages on which pride, self-importance and sin perform their greatest works. Burn every pedestal in sight, ladies! Oh, and while you are at it, throw in all of those masks you have worn for so long! When you walk in humility, authenticity and transparency, you will be a better friend and find true friendship.
Father, please forgive me when I allow jealousy to have a place in my heart. Teach me how to celebrate with my friends as they grow and change and succeed. Help me remember how Your forgiveness covers my sin and empowers me to forgive others. I lay down every grudge and resentment in my heart. I choose to forgive those who have hurt me and commit to seek the forgiveness of those I have hurt. Thank You for the love and grace I can only find in knowing You.
In Jesus’ name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Make a list of the sins in your life that need the forgiveness of God. Ask God to forgive you for each one. If you have sinned against someone else, take the first step of reconciliation. If someone has sinned against you, forgive them and go to them in love, seeking restoration.
- What are the rewards of forgiveness?
- What are the barriers to forgiveness in your heart?
- What are the things for which you cannot forgive yourself?
- What does that indicate about your understanding of true forgiveness?
- Celebrate right now the power of forgiveness in your life.
More from the Girlfriends
Don’t miss the Dollar Days Sale going on in Mary’s online store right now! Looking for a Bible Study that is both practical and powerful? Check out Mary’s E-Book Bible Studies. Each one includes a study guide that you can download for your personal use or for a small group study. I Need a Friendis also available in Bible Study format.
Click here to find out more about
how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Click here to learn more about hosting a Girlfriends in God conference in your area or having one of the GiGs speak at your next women's event.