Summary: God says, "It is not good for a person to be alone." How can we connect instead of cocoon in this society?
A farm boy accidentally overturned his wagonload of wheat on the road. The farmer who lived nearby came to investigate.
“Hey, Willis,” he called out, “forget your troubles for a while and come and have dinner with us. Then I’ll help you overturn the wagon.”
“That’s very nice of you,” Willis answered, “but I don’t think Dad would like me to.”
“Aw, come on, son!” the farmer insisted.
“Well, okay,” the boy finally agreed, “but Dad won’t like it.”
After a hearty dinner, Willis thanked the host. “I feel a lot better now, but I know Dad’s going to be real upset.”
“Don’t be silly!” said the neighbor. “By the way, where is he?”
“Under the wagon,” replied Willis.
Willis and the Good Samaritan farmer lived in a different era than we do today. While we all want to be good neighbors, the meaning of “neighborliness” has changed as the culture has changed from community to cocooning, from country to city, from slow food to fast food, from the dining room to the game room.
People don’t drop by or drop in like they used to — and, what’s more, we don’t want them to!
We all desperately need community.
Paul McCartney once wrote in a song about loneliness in a crowd of others, “All the lonely people, Where do they all come from? All the lonely people, Where do they belong?”
Our elders have identified seven marks of discipleship. These are seven characteristics that every Christian, every Presbyterian, ever member of Good Shepherd Church should exhibit.
One of these seven marks is Spiritual Friendship.
Which is another word for community.
Which is another word for church.
It is not God’s will for us to be alone and lonely. In fact, in the opening verses of Genesis, God makes that very observation – “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)
We need people who can show friendship to us, and we need people to whom we can be a friend.
But not just friendship, you need a spiritual friendship that can only be found in a church.
I want us to look at several passages of Scripture that can teach us about a different key to building successful Spiritual Friendships.
The first key is CONSISTENCY, and we find it reflected in Proverbs 17:17, which says, “A friend loves at all times.”
One of the reasons why many of us may feel lonely is that in what friendships we have, there is a lack of consistency.
We can’t depend on them, and they can’t depend on us.
But in building a true spiritual friendship, God would have us to be consistent. “A friend loves at all times.”
Not when it is convenient.
But at all times.
I heard about this incredible story several years ago.
In November of 1992, Donald DeGreve, age 65, suffered a fatal heart attack while playing golf in Winter Haven, Florida.
As his body lay on the 16th green, covered with a sheet, and while course officials tried to contact his wife and funeral home personnel, the three men who had been playing with DeGreve’s had called 911 to report his death, but then continued onto the 17th and finally the 18th tee to continue their game.
"Life goes on," said one man, "so we had to keep going."
How deep were those relationships? They were shallow because real friends put aside self-serving agenda and help where it’s needed.
“A friend loves at all times,” says Proverbs.
Several years ago, I had a parishioner who had been found guilty of homicide. Approaching the trial, in spite of overwhelming evidence, the man claimed to be innocent, but finally admitted that in a moment of passion and anger; he’d taken the life of another person.
He told me that one of the reasons he was most afraid of admitting his crime was not because of the punishment. He sincerely believed he needed to face up to whatever punishment the courts would dish out.
What he feared most, however, was the loss of all friends. He told me, “People will stand by you no matter what, until you admit you have done something unspeakable. Then they leave you behind.”
But Scripture teaches us, “A friend loves at ALL times.”
Are you ready to embrace the Mark of Spiritual Friendship? Then you have to be willing to be committed to your friends consistently, through all sorts of situations and experiences.
The second key to successful Spiritual Friendship is MUTUAL ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT.
Jackie Robinson was a baseball player from many years ago. He was a great player, but he is perhaps best known for having been the first African-American to play major league baseball. While breaking baseball’s "color barrier," he faced the boos and insults of crowds in every stadium.