When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:12-17
Having a sacrificial mindset when it comes to friendship can be difficult. We live in a me-first world that rewards selfishness. We are constantly bombarded with the usual chaos that life brings daily. It is seems almost unnatural to think of others before ourselves. Lowering ourselves takes unbridled humility. But the Apostle Paul reminds us that the prime example of lowering humility is Christ Himself:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Philippians 2: 5-8
A friend loves at all times through humility. Through placing the needs of others above their own. The second truism uncovered on Proverbs 17:17 reveals the true nature of God's design for friendship. A brother is actually born for adversity! That is why God has placed your friends in your life! God recognizes that while prayer is important, it is also crucial that we have friends to lean upon during the very times of adversity that often require prayer! Is it important that we are praying for our friends? Absolutely. But do not think that typical Christian responses are all that is required when adversity strikes. We all need people to be there for us. To listen to us. To console us or to advise us. God is telling us through this Proverbs verse that it is specifically for adversity itself that He has given us the friends that we enjoy. Looking just at the ministry of Jesus we see He not only preached, prayed and brought the word of God but he addressed the human needs of those who were put in His life. He healed them and freed them. He would also feed them because He looked on them with compassion (Matthew 14). Often before healing someone Jesus would ask them what they wanted. Certainly He knew their needs but He wanted to listen to them.
And that is very often all our friends want as well. Of course it is important that we pray for them and let them know that they are in our prayers but their immediate needs often go far deeper than that. Remember that a friend loves at all times, not just when it fits into our busy lives. Remember that it is the adversity your friend is going through that is the very reason God has placed you in their lives. Let us care for one another through compassion as Christ gave us through the example of His life. Let us live sacrificially in servitude. The enemy wants us alone. God's design is the opposite. Embrace true friendship today and live as Christ wants us to live.
Anthony Wade May 16, 2008