Fill in the blank. “A friend is ____________.” A friend is always there for you, supportive, accepting, helpful, fun, comfortable, etc. You can fill in whatever your qualifications are. We all have them because God designed us to be social. God made us to be friends and to have friends. We were not made to walk through life alone. Do you have a friend? It is getting harder and harder to build authentic friendships since the introduction of the iPhone, email, and social media. With all our connectivity, we have fewer deep and meaningful relationships.
Here are some other friendship killers: fear of rejection and discomfort in conflict. Do you want fear and discomfort to control you? Absolutely not. But we often say, “I see what is going on but I am not going to interfere. I am too sensitive. That’s none of my business.” This is fear and discomfort taking control of you. If you are going down a wrong path and making life worse you want people to help and intervene. We want people to care.
Being nice may not always be “loving” and “nice.” If you are a parent, you will do something that may make your child hate you. You will face their furry and it doesn’t feel like love in the moment but it is worthwhile in the long run. I am so glad my parents were stubborn with me. I hated it in the moment but realize now that it was worthwhile. So to create great friendships, we are going to call out fear and discomfort. In order to do this, we ask Jesus to increase our faith.
Jesus spoke directly this issue. While he didn’t say the word “friend,” he spoke to the concept of what it takes to be a good friend. His disciples needed this deep friendship. They would need each other, especially when Jesus was gone. Jesus said to his disciples: “1 Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”
First, sin happens. Jesus was a realist even though he was the Savior of all. He knew sin would happen. But woe to the person who caused it. Don’t be the cause of someone’s downfall. Don’t be someone’s regret or mistake. Hope that someday someone tells their story and it doesn’t include, “Everything was going just fine until _______ came along.” Jesus especially named causing little ones to sin because of their vulnerability. There are all kinds of big sins to address which adults can influence the youth: kids who find dad’s explicit material, kids who swear because they heard it from mom and dad, kids who grow up with an addiction to substances, or who become violent as they watch mom and dad interact. But the greatest offense is masking fear and discomfort with kindness and sensitivity.
“3 So watch yourselves. (This could also be translated, “Watch over one another”). If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” If someone sins, confront with the goal to forgive. People who decide “Discomfort is not going to control me” are people who care. We are a church that will confront people about sin. But won’t that be awkward?
Disciples realized that this would be uncomfortable and it probably became fear. They didn’t know how to do this. 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. “Increase our faith.” “You don’t need stronger faith. You need only realize who your faith is in.”
I read a quote this week that went like this, “If you don’t deal with your demons, they go into the cellar of your soul to lift weights.” These aren’t real demons but emotions that you let take control. If you don’t deal with your fear and discomfort, they will only get stronger. They don’t go away on their own. They get stronger and stronger till they make a charge and explode. “Lord increase our faith.”
Our demons can only be removed by the one who loves us. Therefore Jesus responded the way he did when the disciples asked for greater faith. “You don’t need stronger faith, you need only realize who your faith is in. You trust in your Father and you trust in me.” If I stand up on a tall ladder, it is not my legs that keep me up, it is the ladder. It is not my trust in the ladder that keeps me safe but a ladder that is well built will keep me safe. If I am holding on with my two feet planted on a rung, I am safe. Every illustration limps but you get my point. Faith is only as strong as what you put your faith in. When you think less of yourself and your inadequacies (“I could never confront someone. I am not that kind of person. I am too afraid. It’s awkward.”) and more of the one in whom you put your trust (Jesus, your Savior), you begin to realize how much strength you really have.
When you do this, you begin to think of yourself as poor when grace has made me rich. But you need not run away in shame or give way to panic, because the race of the cross has covered this struggle as well and will work again today to rescue you from you. Jesus’ sufficient death on the cross is your rescue. He is the strength of your faith.
“Yes, thank you for restoring me and now I am going to be on my way.” But Jesus replies, “I’m not done teaching yet.” Jesus wanted to include them in the confronting and forgiving of other followers. “Jesus, why can’t you do all this. We are uncomfortable, we are afraid of rejection.” What if the Christians were full of the afraid? We would not be here. You would not be here. You are here because someone along the way decided to confront and forgive you. Jesus uses someone’s like you and me to continue this ministry.
We don’t need a big party to celebrate when we do this well. He illustrates in this way. 7 “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
It is simply our duty. We have been restored. We don’t deserve this but the good Father has pulled us in anyways, forgiven us and embraced us as his family. Now in service to his kingdom, we do our duty of confronting and forgiving. When you see someone you love and care about walking down the wrong path you go and intervene. You may say, “It’s none of my business.” Jesus makes it your business.
Before you go and do this point out sins in everyone you meet, you must decide one thing. Love him. Love her. Start with those you love most. It may be awkward; they may not listen. It’s amazing when it works.
There is one who didn’t hide behind being insensitive or nosy, your Father in heaven. He sent Jesus to fully embrace your sin. He confronts you, puts the guilt you already know and the faults you may not realize about yourself before you, not to make you feel bad or to make himself feel mighty. He does so because he cares and so he can wipe it all away.
Love is not silent when something needs to be said. Fear, discomfort, and indifference are silent. When someone confronts you, know that they love you. Don’t get all bent out of shape. Accept the correction as a sign of true friendship.
Know this, God sent his Son to die for all your sins before you even strayed. He chases you down, fights till you are found, and carries you home. God doesn’t do this through a vision or some abstract thing, but through a person who used God’s word. Lord, increase our faith so we can let go of fear and embrace true love.