A few weeks back I spoke at a women's retreat, and over four sessions, summarized the topic of joy (that was not easy trying to condense). At one point during the retreat, a friend asked me a question. Her query had to do with Robin Williams (who to her epitomized "joy") and his suicide. How did the two make sense? Several responses crossed my mind, the first being that while Robin Williams portrayed happiness (outside), what was on his inside was not joy. We often think happiness=joy, but that would be a myth. We rather lie to our kids when we sing "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart...and I'm so happy, so very happy..." We can have joy and yet not be happy, because when Jesus' love is down in our hearts, when we are in a HARD place, there still can be a internal calmness of soul, and a settled mind... The second thought was this - depression (which the actor suffered greatly from) is a true struggle requiring lots of HELP! However, the third thing that I believe is also true is this: We can't have internal biblical joy if we don't have a relationship with Jesus (now, please keep in mind, I wasn't being a judge of Robin Williams, as I never met the man...this was a general statement). Here's why: if Jesus isn't our Savior, biblical joy isn't possible. Why? Because BIBLICAL JOY IS A GIFT OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD (Galatians 5:22). Please note the qualifying word biblical!
All of the above to now say this: The same is true of BIBLICAL FRIENDSHIP. We can't build strong lasting friendships without Jesus. Remember the whole discussion last week about the Michael W. Smith song, "Friends?" The qualifier was this: if the Lord's the Lord of them... We can be friendly. We can enjoy the company of all kinds of people. We can love to do life with them, but what we can not do is expect friendship from them that they can't live out. Deep, life-long, lasting relationships are built when Jesus stands in the middle, between you and me. I've often heard this said, which I think is rather freeing, "we can't expect regenerate behavior from those who aren't redeemed." What I really need are a few "if-the-Lord's-the-Lord-of-them" friends!
In light of this, I ran across this verse from Proverbs this week:
The righteous man chooses his friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
The righteous man chooses his friends carefully...that had me pondering! A LOT! There's really way more to "if-the-Lord's-the-Lord-of-them" friends than what I've already pointed out, but I did run across a passage that I think gives us a little outline for the kind of friends to be cautious of; as well as the kind of friend we should "test" our friendship against. So, that's what we'll be examining over the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, remember this - having Jesus in the middle "between you and me" is crucial. It is no guarantee, mind you, because humans are just that...human. Sometimes, just by nature, we are less than stellar in our approach and responses within relationship. That means sometimes misperceptions, current experiences that color our way of seeing things clearly, poor communication, and just plain old-fashioned selfishness and sin get in between us instead of Jesus (and maybe we'll look a little more at specifics later, too). However, when this happens, we have to do all we can to make course corrections, and work hard at reconciliation (as far as it depends on me...be at peace with all men)! So, while Jesus between us is no guarantee, it is certainly critical for a beginning foundation. Without Him in that place, our relationships are being built on rocky ground from the beginning...