Summary: My subject this morning is not evangelism per say, but something crucial to its success. How can we be the kind of friends that attracts people to Christ and attracts healthy relationships in our own lives?

Being a True Friend

Series: Cultivating Healthy Relationships #2

1 Sam. 17:57-18:4[1]



Ted was born to Polish parents in Chicago in 1942. His father was a sausagemaker and times were tough. When Ted was only 6 months old he was hospitalized with a severe allergic reaction to medication. During that time he was neither hugged nor held—doctors’ orders. When he came home from the hospital his parents described him as withdrawn and listless.

During his early childhood Ted continued to withdraw. But he was very bright intellectually. He sprinted through Evergreen Park High School. And when only 16 years old, he headed off to Harvard.

At Harvard he shared a preppy suite with 5 other guys. One of his roommates, Michael Rohr said, “I can’t remember having a conversation with him.” Patrick McIntosh, another of the roommates, said “Ted had a special talent of avoiding relationships by moving quickly past groups of people and slamming the door behind him.”

By the time he was 20 years old, Ted finished his degree at Harvard and headed off to the University of Michigan where he received his Master’s and Ph.D. Then he went to the University of California (Berkeley) to teach.

Ted intensified his slide into isolation when in 1971 he moved to Montana and became a recluse. In 1990 Ted’s father committed suicide and Ted didn’t even attend the funeral. He said that he had developed a heart arrhythmia which got worse by dealing with family. Ted had told the family to draw a red line under the postage stamp to identify “important & urgent” letters they might send. When they used the red line to identify the letter telling of his father’s suicide, Ted wrote back complaining that the message did not merit a red line.

Ted Kaczyski continued to go deeper and deeper into seclusion until finally exposed as the infamous Unabomber. It’s hard to say what caused Ted to withdraw the way he did. Maybe his early illness was a factor. Maybe the fear of man kept him from discovering the joy and value healthy friendship. Maybe he reacted to some disappointing relationship attempts. Maybe he got his priorities all wrong and put relationship building too far down on the list. One thing is undeniable; the end result of Ted’s withdrawal was destructive for him as well as many others. [2]

This morning I am going to continue the theme from last week concerning relationships. We live in a paradoxical society. On the one hand, we are seeing amazing advancement in communication technology. Now through the magic of satellites we can easily talk directly with someone in China or almost anywhere in the world. The internet has revolutionized the communication industry. All kinds of channels of communication have now opened up between people that were previously impractical if not impossible. Yet while all of that is going on people are feeling more and more disconnected with one another. Emotional isolation is becoming epidemic in America.

Harvard Professor Robert Putnam spearheaded a survey of 40 communities around the U.S. This Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey interviewed about 29,200 people by phone. It determined that the degree to which we socialize with one another, trust one another and join with one another in community predicts a city’s quality of life far better than levels of education or income. The research found that membership in all group activities—bowling leagues, fraternal orders, churches, labor unions, and clubs had steadily fallen. In other words America’s stockpile of “social capital” (or trust and cooperation among citizens) has plummeted.[3]

There are strong sociological forces behind much of the loneliness people in America are feeling. Why have shows like “Seinfeld” and “Friends” been so popular? Why are all the reality shows on TV? People are feeling so lonely they are trying to find vicarious friendship through those programs. Perhaps the greatest opportunity we have for evangelism in the 21st Century revolves around the pain people are experiencing in their emotional isolation. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, by the love you have one for another.” I can think of nothing more attractive to the average sinner out there than a community of believers where the love of God is truly flourishing. The more we enter into healthy, rewarding relationships with one another, the more the world is going to take notice of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this day and time, relationships are key to effective evangelism.

My subject this morning is not evangelism per say, but something crucial to its success. How can we be the kind of friends that attracts people to Christ and attracts healthy relationships in our own lives?

To begin with, it must be properly valued and sought. We have a very effective system for placing value on material things. An appraiser can give you a very close estimate on the market value of your house. You can go on the internet and find out approximately what your vehicle would sell for. Stock values are constantly monitored so that you can know the real time value of your Microsoft stock, your Google stock, etc. But where is your relationship portfolio published. How closely are we monitoring the rise and fall of our social capital? There is an old saying in the Business world, “What gets measured gets done.” We measure financial increase. We measure educational accomplishments. We measure job success. But maybe we need a way to measure social capital. Maybe we need some way to measure the value of strong, vibrant, healthy relationships. When I consider the story of the Unibomber, I have to conclude that his investment in relationships relative to education was way warped. Are relationships getting the priority they deserve in your life? The principle of sowing and reaping apply here as well as in other areas of our lives. Sow bountifully and we reap bountifully. Sow sparingly and we reap sparingly. Sow good seed and we will have a good relational crop.

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