Are We Truth-Tellers?
It seems we often equate being a Christian with being nice, meaning we don’t want to initiate difficult but necessary gospel-centered conversations. Sometimes necessary conversations are difficult, but we must not be people who walk away from a friendship because we’re afraid to speak our “complaint.” Paul is not suggesting that we have a critical spirit toward others, constantly spouting off about what others have done to offend us. Paul is, however, commanding us to be truth-tellers. If someone has sinned against us, if it seems there’s been a misunderstanding, or if we see our friends in perpetual rebellion against God, we must be willing, after much prayer, to approach our friends for the purpose of their restoration to God and also our reconciliation with one another. Let us not step back because we’re unwilling to have necessary conversations and unwilling to give our friends opportunity for explanations and confession.
Are We Forgivers?
Are we living at peace with our friends as much as it depends on us? Or are we grudge-holders, unable to be fully restored in a friendship even after confession and repentance have occurred? Paul says that in light of Christ’s response to our confession, we must be forgivers. Let us not step back from a friendship because we cannot forgive.
Are We Thankful?
Paul concludes, “And be thankful.” Thankfulness to God for the imperfect people He’s placed in our lives is essential. We’re prone to focus on the lack in others and on the way they respond to us in friendship, but through Paul, God says, “Notice what you can thank Me for in your friends.” Our friends may be wildly different from us in personality, gifts, skills, convictions, and the way they extend and receive friendship. Are we allowing them to be who God has designed them to be? Are we intentionally and specifically thanking God for who they are and the way He’s made them? Let us not step back from a friendship because we are ungrateful.
Is the Peace of Christ Ruling in Our Hearts?
We need safeguards to keep us within truth and to keep us from being drawn away from Christ by those who aren’t ruled by him. In Colossians 3, Paul says our safeguard is letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. In other words, peace comes from Him and must reign over any sort of harmony we experience or desire in our relationships with others. When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, God is God and people are people. We don’t expect people to respond as God does, and we don’t believe God responds imperfectly the way people do. This is really the foundational truth that enables us to bear with one another, speak truth to one another, forgive one another, be sanctified by God through one another, and be thankful for one another. Let us not walk away from a friendship because we expect our friends to give us something only Christ can give.
Is the Safeguard Being Circumvented?
If with the Lord’s help we have obeyed His commands in Colossians 3:12–15 and still discern that something feels “off” about our friendship, it may very well be that the safeguard of Christ’s peace is being circumvented. Aside from extenuating circumstances such as church discipline or abuse, this is when I believe God not only allows but commands us to step back from a friendship, because circumventing Christ in order to look for peace in a person or relationship is idolatry.
If a friend is consistently trying to circumvent this safeguard, we must not play toward their idolatry. We can gently point out what we think may be happening and then direct them toward the true peace Christ offers.
However, the opposite holds true as well. If we find ourselves consistently circumventing Christ, trying to make others our peace, or believing we’re the rescuing peace for others, we must take a step back, confess and repent of our idolatry, and reorient ourselves under the reign of Christ’s peace.
Friendship is a gift. Sometimes that gift hurts because it’s sanctifying, which is a lesson I learned from my neighbor and now-restored friend. Friendship, however, should never hurt because we’re seeking satiation in a dry well. It should never hurt because we hold out empty promises of our own ability to give our friends drink. Friendship is a gift because, in its best form, it turns our focus toward the God who chose us and has made us holy and beloved. This is the Friend who will never leave nor forsake us, and we do well never to leave nor forsake Him.