Recently, I’ve come upon several Facebook posts in my news feed and had a real-live-in-person actual conversation with another someone about how people they thought were friends could be so selfish and turn out not to be a friend at all.
That’s a hurtful place. I’ve been there.
Betrayal is tough and can wound someone deeply; particularly when we would never expect that type of behavior from a friend.
And so, I had to learn the difference between friends and a group that I have personally given the moniker “useful acquaintances.”
See, some people I thought were my friends actually were not; they turned out to be mere acquaintances who called me when they needed me, were kind when they wanted a piece of my time, and invisible otherwise. I was merely a useful acquaintance to them.
So, instead of being continually hurt, I had to set a boundary. I had to realize that it was *they* who were not capable of being a friend, and that I should not expect anything more from them.
Now. This doesn’t absolve me from doing the right thing by them; no, the Bible is clear on how my behavior toward them should be. This simply gives me the freedom to release my expectations. There is incredible joy in expressing kindness, acting in deference, displaying graciousness, and walking above the fray — even when the person on the receiving end is clueless. And God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that all along.
That didn’t come naturally to me. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that it doesn’t come naturally to you, either. In general, we tend to do certain things to get a certain result. We are wired that way. But that doesn’t always happen.
It’s not that I want to be taken advantage of, either. Someone told me a long time ago, “Joy, you should toughen up. You’re too nice.”
I had to learn some things.
I had to learn how to be kind without expecting anything in return; to treat them as I would want to be treated without expecting them to reciprocate. And that is in my power to do. Through Christ who gives me strength.
It’s a freeing place to be.
The truth is, we live in a fallen world and sin seems to be the default. It all boils down to one thing: ME. We tend to look out for number one at all costs. Why is that?
Growing up, I always thought that “sin” was a list of do’s and don’ts and that if I’d only done the minor stuff, that somehow made me better.
I had to learn that sin is an attitude and posture of the heart. An evangelist with whom I travel often says, “It’s not a sin that will send you to hell; it’s your rejection of Jesus Christ.” What he says and what God had previously revealed to me is that sin is me sitting on the throne of my heart and serving myself — rather than allowing God to have that rightful place.
See, that space in our hearts will never be satisfied without the Lord filling it with His great love, purpose, and calling. It was created by Him and for Him — because He knew that was what’s best for us. That is ultimate freedom.
My job as a believer is to reflect the love of Christ for others to see. “Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16 This verse immediately follows Jesus’s admonitions and promises in His Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5 is chock full of goodies and merits a full read, by the way!) But that’s a bottom line on this topic with no ifs, ands, or buts.
Micah 6:8 sums it up well: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”
“And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:31-36 NKJV
Here are some great related verses worth memorizing:
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Romans 12:18
“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 NKJV
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NKJV
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 NKJV