"Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable," Louisa May Alcott said. Friendships don't just happen. Usually they are forged between people who enjoy the same pursuits and have similar tastes.
When we marry, our bond with singles is no longer as close, even when we still like our single friends. Our marriage changes the interaction. We are now closer to married friends than when we were single.
The same sort of thing may happen in our spiritual lives. When we come into right relationship with God, all other friendships are affected. Our closeness with other people who walk with God may be strengthened, while others become less close. The pebble of a new relationship with God, tossed into the pool of our lives, causes ripples and waves, making the reflections of other people's lives on our own to waver and dance.
Three Ways to Build Relationships
Once our relationship with God is made right, what criteria can we use to forge new relationships and maintain old ones?
- Loyalty. Mark Twain wrote, "The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right." A true friend will stand with her companions even when they are in trouble. It doesn't mean that she agrees with what her friends did; only that she is fiercely loyal to her friends. If those we were close to before we knew God would weaken our relationship with Him, our loyalties need to change. Let's ask ourselves, "Will I be more loyal to God, or to my old friends and their activities and places of pleasure?"
- Leadership. Of course, we need to maintain friendships with our old buddies, but the leadership may have to change. Before, we might have been a follower, doing whatever our friends chose to do, or going with them wherever they led. Our new close relationship with God may caution us about going certain places and doing certain things. Will we follow God's leadership or that of our old friends? We may need to become the leaders in our group to help steer our unbelieving friends into activities that please God.
- Love. True friends are the ones who are always in our hearts. Even after a long separation, conversations take up right where they left off. If a friend dies, we may continue to think of things we would like to share with the person. Love's bond between fast friends is strong enough to weather any storm, to take the buffeting of any gale.
Even though our relationship with God may change our status with our friends, we will speak to them about their relationship with God, not in a "preachy" way, but out of concern and love. Each person will either accept or reject interaction with God. We can't force our friends to make peace with God, but we can love them and continue to hold them dear to our hearts before God's throne.
Once in a while, we may have to choose between our friends and God. Even though we may experience the pain of rejection by our closest friends, our bond with God will be deepened and strengthened, and our fellowship with Him will be sweeter than before. He will become our closest Friend.
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