As we saw in Part One, friendship is a constant theme throughout God's Word. We could even say that His plan of salvation is to restore friendship between Himself and humanity, as well as between fellow humans. God has bent His efforts toward producing right relationships between people. He sets the pattern of friendship in these loving actions. Notice II Corinthians 8:9: "For you know the condescending goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ—how for your sakes He became poor, though He was rich, in order that you through His poverty might grow rich" (Richard Francis Weymouth, The New Testament in Modern Speech).
We generally think of the word "condescending" in a negative sense, but Merriam Webster's Dictionary notes that it was once more positive: "The verb condescend used to be free of any hint of the offensive superiority it usually suggests today. It could mean literally ‘to go or come down' or, figuratively, ‘to willingly lower oneself to another's level,' . . . senses that are still occasionally encountered in writings on the Bible."
Jesus condescended, and Hebrews 2:11 explains what resulted: "Both the One who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are of the same family" (Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.). We are now all members of that divine Family, and in His humility, Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters.
Christianity is all about family relationships with God and with each other, and the Bible provides many admonishments and encouragements to spur us to live this way. In Romans 12:16 (NIV), the apostle Paul writes, "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited."
In Acts 20:35, Paul notes that Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive," exhorting us in the same breath that we are obliged to help the weak. Solomon writes in Proverbs 14:31 that by being generous and merciful we honor our Creator. In Luke 14:13, Jesus teaches that, when we host a party, visit a local attraction, or go out to a nice restaurant, we should invite someone who may not be able to afford such a nice experience or with whom we would not normally associate. We all have many acquaintances, but until we spend time with them, that is all that they are. If they are to become friends, we must devote some time to them.
When we do as God instructs and share our time and ourselves with them, when the time is right, God will bless our sacrifice. In the meantime, we may have actually gained a new friend—a real friend. How invaluable is that—for both parties?
Hebrews 13:2 reads:
Do not neglect to extend hospitality to strangers [especially among the family of believers—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (The Amplified Bible, Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.)
God wants to see our reactions and may even be testing us to see how we respond to the needs of those of us who are in a weaker position. Paul writes to the Philippians:
. . . fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:2-4)
In John 15:13, Jesus tells us, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." The apostle John adds a second scriptural witness in I John 3:16, "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." As we have learned, this principle is the meaning of the grain or meal offering. We honor and glorify our heavenly Father as we lay our lives down in sacrifice and active service for one another.
Finally, the apostle James contends in James 1:27 that true worship of God is more than just not sinning but also proactively visiting the widows and the fatherless. These categories represent all who are weak and lack support. We need to put ourselves in their shoes, as it were, and walk a mile in their moccasins. If we will review our shortcomings and experiences, it becomes easier to empathize with the weak among us and to reach out to offer them hope and a helping hand.
It should be our goal to relate to all our brothers and sisters in the faith, regardless of their status in life. Recalling Lucy Ricardo's words in the "Friends of the Friendless" episode, each of us is the flotsam of the sea, a pitiful outcast, shunned by our fellow man. Never forget who we were—and perhaps who we still are—and consider the example of our Savior as we do to others as we would have others do to us (Luke 6:31).
As we seek to be like Him, bear in mind that, regardless of how low we may stoop, none of us has bowed so low as our Savior when He gave up His glory and became like His human creations. His selfless actions can always serve to motivate us.
It will not be easy, but if we seek to use whatever gifts that God has given to help heal the loneliness and disappointments of others, it will go a long way in helping us to fulfill our Christian duty. We will truly be "friends of the friendless."
- John Reiss
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