It is said by one poet, “There’s happiness in little things, there’s joy in passing pleasure. But friendships are, from year to year, the best of all life’s treasure” (The Christian’s Everyday Problems, Brownlow, p. 53.) Truly, having good friends can make life more enjoyable and fulfilling. We cannot, however, expect to have good friends until we behave as one to other people. The most important part of any friendship is to consider the needs of the other person as more important than your own, just as the Lord explains through Paul in Philippians 2:3-4.
Are You Trustworthy?
Trust is a powerful ally if we want to establish and maintain good friendships. If we do not trust others, or if we cannot be trusted, then very little ever gets accomplished when a group of us are trying to work together. Do you work as hard as you ought to at a project? When your boss asks for you to do something, does he place great trust in you? When you let your children go out with friends, do you trust them? A state of genuine trustworthiness is difficult to achieve, and even more troubling to get back once it is lost, so it is absolutely important that we realize just what kind of reputation we are upholding and advertising for ourselves. “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man?” (Proverbs 20:6)
To learn to cultivate trust in our relationships, we must first understand that it must be earned. Trust cannot be bought and sold like a cheap product at the market, but it must be practiced and nurtured through years of hard work and reliability. As Paul is explaining the qualifications for elders, he makes it clear in 1 Timothy 3:7 that elders need to have a good reputation with those who are outside the church. But can this reputation be earned quickly and casually? Certainly not, and the same applies to widows (1 Timothy 5:10), young men (Titus 2:8), deacons (1 Timothy 3:10), and Christians in general (Romans 13:13). If we do not practice righteousness in our lives, and thereby allow our reputations as trustworthy people to slip in the eyes of unbelievers, we will lose credibility when trying to teach the Gospel. No unbeliever will be convinced by a hypocrite who cannot be trusted!
Second, we should know that trust can be broken. Consider the story of John Mark. In Acts 13:13 we read about how this man abandoned the apostles in their work – an obvious breach of trust in the eyes of the apostle Paul. He held hard feelings when it came to John Mark, and refused to allow him to accompany the group on their next journey. In Acts 15:38, Barnabas requests that John Mark go with them, but Paul explains that he does not trust John Mark. It seems that Paul had forgiven the young man for his cowardice in the face of the work, but forgiveness does not necessarily mean a complete renewal of their previous relationship. Paul did not trust John Mark – he may have loved and forgiven him, but he did not trust him. As for us, all it takes some times is one act of foolishness, cowardice, or outright betrayal to lose another Christian’s trust for many years. Fortunately for John Mark, it seems that at some point he was able to renew Paul’s trust in him and he became very useful to the work of the Gospel (Colossians 4:10).
So how trustworthy are you? Do you go around telling other people’s secrets? “He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter” (Proverbs 11:13). Do you shirk your responsibilities and cause your brethren to lose faith in you? “But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:38-39). Trust is absolutely important for a Christian because we are entrusted with both the great treasure of salvation (2 Timothy 1:14) and the secrets of the Gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:4). It is a big responsibility that we have and God is not interested in saving those who He cannot trust (Matthew 25:29-30).
Being friendly when others are not…
If you are anything like me, then it is difficult for you to know why you have enemies. Many of us do everything we can to be friendly, kind, giving, and likeable, but the sad truth is that sometimes our convictions and our attitudes will lead others to dislike us. It is important for us to understand why we have enemies, as well as what we can do about them, because God warns us that such threats are real for his followers (1 Peter 4:12).
· Enmity from a refusal to flatter – We will make enemies for ourselves because of our refusal to give credence to unrighteous individuals. It is similar to the situation facing Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:8, in which the king of Israel exclaimed, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophecy good concerning me, but evil.” Because Micaiah the prophet only prophesied what God directed him to (1 Kings 22:14) he was put in prison and fed sparingly. When the time comes for us to speak the Word, will it be boldly and truthfully, or will we give in and speak flattering lies (Jude 16) so that we are spared from tribulation? After all, it is written in Psalm 12:3, “May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks great things.”
· Many of us prefer making friends to making believers out of people. But what is really the result of true friendship?
· Enmity from a reproof – Solomon said, “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8). There are times when reproof is necessary, and much good can come from it if both parties have the right attitude (2 Corinthians 7:9-10). Many will balk at such a rebuke, no matter how kindly we may present it. When this happens, though, we cannot let it stop us from preaching the Truth. In response to this kind of situation, Paul wrote in Galatians 4:16, “Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?”
· Enmity because of envy – “A farmer had many friends in his community, and seldom ever was aught said against him. . . until he became rich from oil; and in one year his supposed friends had become his enemies and were talking about him. Why? He was wealthy and they were not” (Brownlow, 48.) When you are successful in business, disciplined in your spirit, and happy in your family life, there will inevitably be people who hate you because of it. It is said that “envy is the rottenness of bones” in Proverbs 14:30. Such was the case for Cain, who saw the good nature and acceptable sacrifice of his brother and felt only envy. He hated his brother because of his righteousness, and responded to his feelings by murdering righteous Abel.
· “Many are those who hate me wrongfully. And those who repay evil for good, they oppose me, because I follow what is good. Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, do not be far from me” (Psalm 38:19-21).
Loving your enemies
How we deal with those who refuse to be friendly with us can go a long way toward eventually changing those in opposition to what is right.
· Do Good Unto Them – Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you” (Matthew 5:44). It is always said that love can allay the anger of even our fiercest enemies. With a gentle answer, or a kind word, we can turn away great wrath that would otherwise destroy us. Our Lord also tells us through the apostle Paul, in Romans 12:20, “Therefore if you enemy is hungry, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; for in doing so you shall heap coals of fire on his head.” We have a choice to make when our enemies mistreat us. Either we can respond in kind, with words of wrath and deeds of injustice – in which case we will be no better than our aggressors – or we can respond with gentleness and kindness.
· Pray For Them – “Pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). Brownlow writes, “It takes much more courage to pray for your enemies that it does to knife them in the back or even to fight them openly.” When it came to praying for His enemies, Jesus practiced what He preached. He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Even Stephen prayed for his enemies as he was being stoned to death in Acts 7:60.
· Rejoice Not At His Failures – “Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17). There is something to be said for not “rubbing it in” when we see our enemies hit start to slide. Indeed, the human thing to do would be to laugh, point, and feel some sense of vindication when we see our enemies getting their comeuppance. Perhaps instead of rejoicing, we should be willing to hold our hands and help that enemy, for one kind gesture may go a long way in being a positive influence on that person’s life.
There are thousands of simple ways that you can show your friendliness to others – and realize that when you do you are reflecting Christ in your life (Matthew 26:40).
· Be as courteous as possible with your neighbors by allowing them to borrow tools, garden equipment, etc. Be prompt in returning their possessions.
· Speak kindly to strangers. Never assume the worst about people.
· Smile often.
· Hold your wife’s hand, and give regard to her needs.
· Wave people in on the highway.
· Do not hesitate to open the door for somebody with a smile.
· Be prompt for appointments and punctual for social functions.
· Offer your help with no strings attached.
· Teach somebody the Gospel.
· Loan money without interest.
· Be hospitable with brothers in need.
· Greet visitors at the worship.