Thursday, January 24, 2008

What are Friends for?

I’m a “best friends” kind of girl. I don’t enjoy wandering into a crowd and pumping flesh and making nice with total strangers. That’s not my “poison” of choice.
What I enjoy is getting to know someone, coming to love them and settling into a mutual friendship where we share our lives and hearts. There’s just one little problem to having those kind of friendships – they can be messy. They can consume time and energy. Besides, all my best friends happen to be sinners – just like me!
It’s not that I hang with a “bad” crowd. It’s just that starting with myself – the real truth is that we are all sinners to the very core of our hearts: me, you, everyone. And that’s the problem that intrudes in all relationships – having a sinner’s heart!
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor like you love yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Think about it. You and I must face the darkness in our own hearts and see the need we have for restoration – for restoration hearts – before we can love anyone else deeply. To love myself, I have to see my own failure, know my need and be willing to be real about my own heart.
We can try to fool ourselves and others. We can keep our mask tightly in place, but all the while we are side-stepping the truth and living a lie. How can I ever love another person with real love and accept them just where they are unless I know how great my own need is. Only a heart that knows the Savior is ever ready to reach out to another sinner with that same gracious love.
The very men Jesus spoke to about loving their neighbor were His greatest critics. They looked down their long crooked noses and self-righteously deemed everyone (except others just like them) as undeserving and worthy of distain. That’s why they felt perfectly justified in stepping around a bleeding and broken traveler in their path.
When Jesus told the story of the Samaritan stranger who stopped to help the fellow traveler, the “religious types” in the audience just didn’t get the point. They didn’t want to get it! Getting it would mean they would have to admit their own need, and they were not willing to go there even in their own hearts and certainly not in any public way.
When we know how greatly our hearts need Jesus, when we know how deeply we need restoration – then we can get down and dirty with other sinners (just like me) in their own need - to offer them the same love and mercy we have received. The Samaritan traveler who stopped to help the beaten up stranger didn’t kneel in the dirt without getting blood and dirt on his own clothes and hands.
When you and I see ourselves as great sinners, then we don’t look upon other sinners with distain but rather knowing that there but for the grace of God go I. Then we know that we are all kept in the grip of God’s grace together. We don’t deserve God’s gracious restoration. We can never earn God’s love AND we will never have real love to offer “a neighbor” until our own hearts have been bathed in God’s restoring grace!
That’s why there’s a need for restoration hearts and for a Restoration Church in the South Hills and anywhere else – because sinners need other sinners as best friends. Friends who will get down in the dirt (and blood) and offer love and be love’s heart and hands and feet!

No comments: