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In last week’s article, we looked at Jesus’ command not to call anyone father or teacher. The reason, Jesus said, was because we have a Father who provides all that we need both physically and spiritually and have Christ, the Suffering Servant, for our teacher. If we give place to men and women to take on these roles, we end up exalting them, in a measure, to the place of God. We should look to no man or woman for our sufficiency in anything as if we needed their knowledge and vitality for our spiritual lives. Men and women who get exalted to such places, Jesus said, do things to be seen by others and love the best seats in meeting places. From such high places, they are under pressure to maintain them. If you are in a fellowship with leaders who behave this way, Jesus has told you to do as they say but not as they do.

This week, we are going to study the implications of a very difficult word from Jesus. “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).1 Jesus reiterates this harsh reality at least two other times. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18–19). “And I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).

Oh, how I like to be liked and have friends. I am not fond of this truth. But I cannot deny Jesus’ words. I cannot deny His truth.

It isn’t wrong to have friends, but how can we do that and yet be hated by the world? What do we do with this tendency to want “all people to speak well” of us?

I think the answer begins with understanding what true friendship—the truest and most steadfast friendship—is: the friendship which Jesus offers. Jesus made this challenging statement in John: “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). It is challenging because friends do not place this stipulation on each other, that one must do what the other commands if they are to remain friends. If you read this blog regularly, you may know what I will write next. Being a friend of Jesus is manifestly different than being a friend to a college buddy. The truth is that we do not know how to be friends with the Creator of the universe. He must teach us how. If we keep His commands, we will learn to be His friends.

Friends with the One who created the universe. Sounds like an amazing, eternal friendship, doesn’t it?

We could begin to solve the conundrum of how to have earthly friends yet realize that many will hate us with this:

Have friends but do not compromise Jesus’ commands.

To have all people speak well of us can only happen if we compromise God’s truth and thus deny friendship with Jesus. Christians are to learn how to have friends yet not sin like this. Let me launch out by confessing that this unenviable trait of compromise seems to run strongly in me. I think it has kept me from saying strong words about God at times. I say, “I think,” because often I honestly don’t know if it is me compromising or following the Holy Spirit’s leading to keep my mouth shut. It has been a lifelong discernment issue. I like interesting conversations and knowing about people’s lives and would rather those conversations continue. I do not think this is wrong. Nevertheless, I also must confess that I am repulsed by the reality that I could be hated but drawn to the idea that people would speak well of me. And that’s where the sinful fault lies. Right there. My need to be liked may prevent me from obeying Jesus’ commands and even cause me to deny Him. I realize how far I am from accepting this you-will-be-hated truth and being a faithful friend of Jesus. If this is you too, I know the Lord is full of grace and merciful and will love me and you as we endeavor to do this. Let’s pray for each other.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com.

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