WEEK 39: A TRUE FRIEND
Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Proverbs 27:6a
It is really hard to detect your own sin in its early stages. Sure, it is easy to see it when it blows up and becomes really ugly or when it results in consequences, which all sin eventually does. But how can we be more honest with ourselves when the first tendency toward sin begins to grow in our sin-sick hearts?
We cannot help our humanness, but sometimes a legitimate hurt can fester into sin. In other words, you can be perfectly innocent when someone hurts you for no reason. That hurt, however, can evolve into sin in your heart. If you nurse it, focus on it, resent it, avoid forgiving it, or do any number of other wrong things with it, the hurt can infect your heart with sin.
Our first response to someone hurting us is so important. We are not wrong to feel hurt. We were created with emotions for all kinds of sound reasons. So to hurt is human. What we want to do is to move as quickly as we can from our human response to a Christlike response. After all, we are daily trying to grow to be more and more like Him. Although we have seen it on a thousand posters and bracelets, the best response is to ask, “What would Jesus do?” and then follow His example. When He prayed for the people who were torturing and crucifying Him and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” we were given a strong visual example of how we are to respond to being hurt.
In that moment, Jesus did not think of Himself; He thought of the people and the condition of their minds and hearts. If you are struggling to respond like Christ when people hurt you, this approach is an effective one. Stop and ask what is going on in the life and heart of the other person?
Someone once told me that at the basis of all anger is fear. When someone lashes out at me in anger, I first examine my own heart for sin. Next, I ask myself this about the angry person: “What are you so afraid of? How has what I have said or done made you feel threatened or defensive?” Stopping to consider what might be going on behind their eyes can help you change your response. It will help you do unto others as you would have them do to you because you have tried to put yourself in their shoes.
Another strategy to help you face your sin in an ongoing way is to develop accountability partners. We all need friends who will be honest with us about our sins. Most of our friends will be tempted to “take our side” in a conflict. A real Christian friend will be honest with you when you ask her to help you identify any sin you have in a situation.
The other night I was having dinner with some of my most delightful younger friends. The name of the counselor at our church came up, and we all agreed she is a wonderful Christian friend. I happened to say, “And what I like about her is that if I am wrong about something, she will not hesitate to tell me.” I wish I could describe the look of shock on the young women’s faces as they said, “She busts you?” I said, “Oh, ye-ah. She does not mind busting me at all.”
They were thrilled! They said, “So you bust us, but she busts you?” I felt this should have been so obvious that I needed busting (to use their term) as much as they did, but they honestly had not realized that. It made them so happy that I told them that not only did she bust me but that our Director of Children’s Ministries had busted me at one time, too, and it had been a good bust. A productive bust. A bust that resulted in my growth. That is what a real Christian friend will do for you.
And a good Christian friend will help you see your part in the creation or resolution of a problem. Even if the other person you are in conflict with has provoked the situation and sinned more than you have, you can probably identify something in your heart, words, or actions that could have been more Christlike. Ask the Holy Spirit and your Christian friend to help you identify your part. Don’t let the other person’s more obvious sin blind you to more subtle sins you have committed.
NOTE: Please consider this week whether you have Christian friends who do not just encourage you but also help you confront your sin. If you need strengthening in this area, please pray about it. You may need to ask God to send that type of Christian friend into your life. Or you may need to go to your Christian friends and give them permission to be more open with you about the sensitive topic of your sin.
Giving Your Friends Feedback
Another way to look at it is this. The original translation of the word sin was “to miss the mark.” Not following Jesus or obeying Him is missing the mark. We can never attain perfection here on earth. From time to time, we all miss the mark. It reminds me of an exercise I once had my students do on communication. They had to get a rubber ball into a bowl. The problem was that they were blindfolded. They had a partner who could give them clues, but some partners were better than others. Some students struggled for far too long because their partners hesitated to tell them clearly when they were going wrong. Once they were off course, it was more difficult to get them back on track.
An interesting twist to this game was that at the beginning of the game, the partner was only allowed to tell the blindfolded students when they were doing something wrong. The blindfolded student only heard negative feedback. If he was on the right course and about to hit the mark, the partner could not encourage him and tell him he was doing well and should continue heading in the right direction. When partners were allowed to tell the “blind” student when he was on the right track as well as when he was on the wrong track, the student got the ball into the bowl much faster. He no longer was missing the mark.
Being a good Christian friend is like that. You must tell your friend when she is weaving over the line into sin or even putting herself in a position to be vulnerable to sin. You must also tell her when she is on the right track and when you see her living for the Lord with passion and energy. Don’t assume she already knows that. Everyone needs encouragement. The Christians around you need to hear your affirming words from time to time. Whom can you encourage this week?