Here's a focal verse for the week. It's found in Proverbs 17:17(a). Ponder it. It's only six words, but packed with a powerful punch. I find it to be the most convicting verse on friendship in the Scriptures. These words are hard to live up to on a daily basis.
The verb "love" is understandable. It's even do-able from time to time. I struggle with the phrase "at all times." Repeat that loudly: at all times! AT. ALL! TIMES.
Think what that means. If you're my friend (an "if-the-Lord's-the-Lord-of-them" friend), you will love me:
When my hair is a mess; and, I have bad breath.
When I stink and am in need of a shower.
When my attitude also stinks and needs cleansing... When I'm grumpy, irritable, resentful,
argumentative, and totally unlovable.
When my theology doesn't match the reality of my life, and I'm hypocritical, forgetful of truth, and judgmental.
When I'm less than patient, kind, compassionate...
When I talk too much, and I'm filled with conceit.
When I don't rejoice with you, or weep with you as I should.
When I keep a record of wrongs and forget to show mercy, canceling your debt against me, with forgiveness.
When I'm greedy, joy-less, and let emotions over-rule my head.
YUCK! An "if-the-Lord's-the-Lord-of-them" friend is ALWAYS loving...by choice!
They are Jesus-with-skin-on.
These friends are RARE! Rare, because at times like I've mentioned, being a friend is messy. It's not easy. They have to hold the pail for the verbal vomit. They have to hand us tissues for snot-runneth-over noses, and river-flowing-teary-eyes. They have to be OK with our skewed momentary perspectives, and able to hold us in their hearts without judgment. They are the settled, wisdom of Jesus; but more importantly, when it is hard for us to find the presence of the Lord (because He just "feels" distant), they are His presence. They help us find JOY...
So, yes, I'm convicted by this difficult-to-do verse. I've had to ask myself the same question I was asked years ago, "Do I even KNOW what a good friend is truly like?" Have I ever been that kind of friend? Certainly in spurts...but, AT. ALL! TIMES?