1) Not returning anger or digs right away
Keys to Good Friendships
Thomas Hughes said,
“Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is
one of God’s best gifts. It involves many things, but above all,
the power of giving out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is
noble and loving in another.”
that I were to take our minivan and swerve off of the paved highway
and into some rugged woods. It would not be long before the chassis
would be torn into pieces and the car clunk to a halt, now a
broken-down wreck. Why so much damage?—because a minivan was not
created to be driven over harsh terrain. It functions best when
driven on paved roads as the engineers designed it.
are created in the image of God and thus we have been endowed with
aspects of God’s nature such as wisdom, love, justice, holiness,
mercy, and patience. A key aspect of God designing us similar to
Himself is that we can have a personal and endless relationship with
Him. That we have similar natures draws us to each other. We see this
principle throughout creation: Lions form a pride, fish swim in
schools, and ants live in colonies. Whereas all the rest of creation
has only one type that they are similar to—their own species—we
are unique because there are two types that we are similar to and,
therefore, can form deep relationships with: other people
(individually and in community) and God.
we lack any of these relationships we feel incomplete. When we try to
fill any of these voids with something other than with what God
intended then we can make a wreck of our lives. But when we delight
ourselves in the Lord and with His people, then He will give us the
desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.”).
designed us to have personal, caring relationships with other
individuals. Studies have shown that people who lack social contacts
are more depressed and stressed, feel more deprived, and even have
more physical ailments.
the beginning of Creation everything around Adam was perfect. He
walked and spoke with God. He was surrounded by friendly animals. He
had unblemished health and plenty of food. But we read in Genesis
2:20 that Adam was incomplete, something was missing. Even Adam
needed the company of another person. So God created Eve and brought
her to him.
could completely fulfill all of our needs directly. When we need
advice He could whisper in our ear infinite wisdom. When we have
doubts He could point to Scriptures that would strengthen our
foundation. God does meet all of our needs but usually it is through
other people. We are conduits of God’s character. God pours His
grace through us to someone that is hurting. We are the ones who
deliver the Good News of salvation to those who are lost. And,
likewise, when we are needy we can go to others.
Corinthians 3:16 says, “Don't you know that you yourselves are
God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” A temple was not
an isolated building maintained by only one person. It was a central,
busy area and the primary place of God’s presence. Similarly, as
temples, we should be where many people can come to experience God’s
mercy, love, compassion, and forgiveness.
the first things that we must realize is that every human
relationship will fail us at some time in some way.
failure may be catastrophic or it may merely be a disappointment. But
it will come.
closer that we get to someone the more likely that we will experience
one of those failures.
one reason why some people don’t want to get close to other people.
It may not be because they are snobs or unfriendly. It may simply be
because they don’t want to be hurt.
problem with that attitude, though, is that they’re missing all of
the rich treasures that can come from close friendships.
14:4, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much
increase comes by the strength of the ox.”
seem like an odd verse for a study on friendships, but what it is
saying is this.
about the manger as being your life and think about oxen as being
want a life that is clean and basically unencumbered then keep people
out of your life. Your life will be clean. But it will also be empty.
And it won’t be used for that which it was created for.
you bring people into your life you’re going to have to clean up
some messes. But much strength comes from having those people there.
have done just as well without us being around. Yet His desire for
intimate relationships drove Him to pay the highest cost. And by
doing so, He set Himself up for much potential rejection.
failures and disappointments in relationships will come.
happens there are several questions that we need to ask ourselves.
am I going to react to this?
going to be vengeful? Or am I going to be gracious?
going to become depressed? Or am I going to look to God for my
going to become angry and bitter? Or am I going to forgive, if
necessary, and move on with my life?
my whole self-image or self-esteem going to fall to the ground
crushed? Or am I going to be confident in how God still sees me?
the friendship worth fighting for?
I turn inward and isolate myself or will I draw nearer to God and
let Him work with me?
a failed relationship mean that you should, therefore, pull away
from all relationships? Or does it mean that you should draw nearer
to the one relationship that will never fail? And of course this is
will this affect my relationships with others?
I drive others crazy with my constant whining? Or will I seek out
others so that I can learn from them?
I take out my frustrations on someone else? Or will I deal with my
frustrations in a mature, correct manner?
I still seek to minister to others even in my own time of need?
choice of which road you will take when a relationship fails is
always up to you. God will always give you the strength to do what is
anyone have a one or two minute example in your own life where a
relationship failed and, if you reacted wrongly, how you could have
done better or, if you reacted correctly, what you did and why your
choice was good?
we are not going to concentrate on how to deal with these failures in
relationships but rather how you can become more like Christ and so
have better relationships.
different levels of friendships
Levels of Friendship
on occasional contacts
to ask general questions: public information
on common interests, activities, and concerns
to ask specific questions, opinions, ideas, wishes, and goals
Friendship and Fellowship
on mutual life goals
to discuss more deeply life goals and desires
Friendship and Fellowship
on commitment to the development of each other’s character
to deeply trust each other to be truly concerned about the other
And so we
are going to look at several keys that will enable us to move into
deeper friendships and to maintain them.
Be willing to be the first to
open up to the other person
there is a situation where the two fighters just circle each and
never throw any punches. Neither one of them wants to take the
initiative because they are afraid that the other boxer will then get
in a good counter punch. This is called “posing.”
relationships this same thing can happen. We can have two people
where the relationship is going nowhere and it’s mostly because
neither person is willing to take the initiative. Neither one is
willing to put himself into a vulnerable position. And so you have a
relationship that is shallow.
us to be a people who are willing to be open with our lives.
Corinthians 6:11-13, “Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O
Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. You are not restrained by us,
but you are restrained in your own affections. Now in a like
exchange—I speak as to children—open wide to us also.”
only three places in Paul’s letters where he addresses the church’s
congregation by name within the text of the letter.
4:15 where Paul commends the Philippians for sticking with him and
3:1 where Paul chides the Galatians for living by the law rather
than by grace.
here in 2 Corinthians where Paul is pleading with the Corinthians to
open up to him.
is saying that his heart is opened wide the Greek word means that his
heart was enlarged. I.e., Paul chose to expand his heart wide enough
to give his affections to all of the Corinthians. He was willing to
take them all inside; to love them, to care for them, and to share
his life with them.
indicts them by saying that the reason why they are restrained around
him is not because he has given them any excuse to be tight-lipped.
But, rather, the problem is because they are deliberately holding
back their affections.
he asks them to be open to him as he is to them.
is the key here? On what basis was Paul able to ask them to open up
to him? It was because he was first open to them. He was not
expecting them to do something that he had not done first. So he was
able to say, “Now in a like exchange…”
same way, in order to develop friendships we must be the one willing
to take the initiative. Don’t expect everyone to come to you.
one point in my life where I felt that several of my friends had
their friendships were all show, that they weren’t sincere. That
they were friends to me only because, as Christians, they had to be.
So I decided that from then on I would force people to come up to me
and initiate the conversation because then that would prove that they
were sincere. Well, do you know what happened? For the several years
that I tried this I did not make one new friend. Finally I said that
this wasn’t going to work and decided to take the initiative again
and, as a result, I’ve made a lot of friends.
is that you must determine to be the one who takes the first shot.
And if it doesn’t work out then you shrug your shoulders, you move
on and you try again.
you do this? What does this mean?
means being the one who walks up to other people first.
means learning how to ask questions or say things that will get a
means learning the skill of making friends.
means being the first one willing to share something personal.
means responding to someone who approaches you.
means remembering what they said so that you can ask them about it
the next time.
this not mean?
does not mean talking incessantly about yourself. Have you ever been
with someone where 90% of every conversation is about them? People
are not microphones.
does not mean laying your whole life on the table to someone that
you just met. That means that you don’t walk up to someone and
say, “Hi, my name is Bob and I just got out of an institution and
my entire life is in a shambles. Do you want to hear why?”
does not mean giving up because it isn’t going as well as you had
other things in life, developing good friendships takes practice and
our ultimate example of this.
not wait for us to come to Him.
he came down and did all that He had to in order to forge a
relationship with each one of us.
you have a heart that clenched as tight as a fist or do you have a
heart that grows in response to people?
you build a stone fortress around your affections or are you willing
to be unrestrained in your affections?
you willing to settle for a life that is clean but empty or are you
willing to put up with some messes for the sake of strength that
Understand that not every
situation will work out the way that you might have hoped
things just don’t click.
sometimes that person is not looking for a new friend at that time.
sometimes that person is going through their own battles and doesn’t
really need or want a new situation.
sometimes, some people are just a cold fish or are bitter.
doesn’t mean that you are unlovable.
doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a poor friend or a bad
You can’t take every
interaction personally as though everything that someone else says
and does is a reflection of you. It’s NOT all about you.
have other things going on in their lives and that may affect their
ability to get along with someone else; no matter who that person is.
something isn’t working out then just let it go and move on. If you
want to communicate your displeasure at how things are drifting
apart, then fine, go ahead. But don’t cling to people like a leech.
Move on. Learn from the situation and make new friends.
and one other person are the only survivors of a nuclear war and you
can’t get along then that is a problem.
that is the case, there are plenty of other people around.
become fixated on one person.
drive yourself crazy if you think that every relationship has to last
you’ll drive yourself crazy if you think that every failed
relationship is a reflection of you.
Jesus say in Matthew 10:14 to His disciples? “And whoever
does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that
house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.”
the dust. I.e., let go of it. Leave it behind and move on.
everyone got along with Jesus Christ and He was perfect.
because a relationship doesn’t turn out the way that you might
want, that doesn’t mean that the whole thing must be chucked. Maybe
you can settle very nicely into being just friends and that may be
the one of the best friendships that you have.
anyone have any thoughts as to why some relationships just won’t
ever really click no matter how hard you try?
Learn to listen
what people are saying and then ask appropriate questions based on
what they just said.
means is not just hearing what they are saying but listening to it.
18:2, “A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in
revealing his own mind.”
doesn’t care what the other person is saying; he is only waiting
for an opportunity to talk.
even one step beyond listening and that is remembering. When someone
tells you something significant then try and remember it. Then the
next time that you see them ask them about it.
our example here? It is God, of course.
to listen to our prayers every second of every day.
116:2, “Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I
shall call upon Him as long as I live.”
“inclined” in the Hebrew means to “bend over.”
course, in your goal to be more of a listener that doesn’t mean
good listener means listening to the other person. That is very
different from not talking.
quietest person may never listen to anything that another person is
is not to let the other person talk more but to listen to what the
other person is saying.
are not microphones for us to talk in to. They are people with goals
and desires and opinions and struggles just like us. Don’t you turn
a friend into nothing more than a tape recorder.
Don’t return anger or digs
right away in like manner
attacks you or gives you a little dig.
attack could be unwarranted and mean.
your face he may call you names or impugn your motives or make false
dig could be subtle.
should know better.”
wonder why you’re… “
was really dumb.”
Jesus react to these little digs?
4:3-4, “And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the
Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’”
the little dig here?
if you’re so high-falutin; if you’re so special; if you’re such
a big deal; then do this.”
He answered and said, ‘It is written, “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON
BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF
came at Christ with that little dig, “If You are the Son of God…”
did Jesus do?
jump right in and defend Himself and say, “I am the Son of God and
you know it!”
Actually, He didn’t even address it. He just let it go by.
27:39-43, “And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him,
wagging their heads, and saying, ‘You who are going to destroy the
temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the
Son of God, come down from the cross.’ In the same way the chief
priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him,
and saying, ‘He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the
King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall
believe in Him. HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET HIM DELIVER Him now, IF HE
TAKES PLEASURE IN HIM; for He said, “I am the Son of God.”’”
abused Him. They mocked Him. They made fun of Him.
what did Jesus say in return? Nothing.
26:4-5, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you
also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he be
wise in his own eyes.”
How is a
fool wise in his eyes here? It is because he just put you down with
some snide remark and what did you do? –You fell right down to his
level and responded in kind. Therefore, in his mind, you proved that
you are just as low as he made you out to be. So he was right.
temptation is always to defend yourself and to give digs in return.
do that. If you have something to say to someone then just
communicate it in a mature manner.
we want people to pay and to pay immediately for something that they
said to us that we didn’t like.
keep your mouth shut at these times. You should be able to get with
this person at a later time and discuss things in a more reasonable
have been so many times in my life that someone gave me a dig and I
had to bite my lip to keep from nailing him back. But by the next day
or maybe even an hour later I am so glad that I didn’t.
be gracious even in the midst of adversity.
Peter 2:19-23, “For this finds favor, if for the sake of
conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering
unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly
treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is
right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor
with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ
also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in
His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS
MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while
suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him
who judges righteously.”
comes to hostile relationships or situations it says here that Christ
left us an example. What was that example?
He was reviled; He didn’t revile in return.
He was suffering because of others; He didn’t threaten them.
left the judgment to His Father.
your example. And what is the point of an example? For you to do it.
doesn’t mean that you should be a doormat. But what it does mean is
that you shouldn’t stoop to their level of name-calling. Deal with
it in a gracious manner. If that means dealing calmly and maturely by
giving your perspective then do that. But if that means being silent;
then be silent.
being attacked or verbally abused it is definitely hard to be
gracious in return. Besides not responding in kind, what are some
other ways that you can be gracious in this situation?
Do not judge other people.
7:1-2, “"Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way
you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it
will be measured to you.”
you tell if you are judging someone?
six possible tests. If you fail at any of them then there is a good
chance that you are guilty of being judgmental.
failure improves the opinion that I have of myself.
failure decreases my concern for the faults that I know I have.
failure gives me a desire to see him punished.
you hope that others see what he is doing or find out about it and
then they will take him to task?
you glad when he fails at something so that you can quickly blame
his failure as being directly caused by his sin?
eager to tell others of his failure.
you hardly wait to run into so-and-so so that you can tell her what
this other person did or said?
know that gossip is wrong so you just can’t blurt it out. So you
lead the conversation so that the other person brings up the louse’s
name. So since they brought him up first that somehow enables you to
open up the floodgates of gossip.
failure promotes me to review his past failures.
failure causes me to feel that I cannot forgive him.
judge someone else, God is basically saying
I’m a God of mercy and I want you to be a person of mercy.
a God of forgiveness and I want you to be a person of forgiveness.
a God of patience and I want you to be a person of patience.
you prefer to use your own standard of judgment then that’s the one
that I’ll use with you also since it’s the one that you seem to
like so much.
6:12, “‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our
are a critical, judgmental person then don’t be surprised if you
find yourself being isolated. Nobody likes a back stabber.
Max is an only child who lived in a military family and
his family moved around quite a bit. He rarely spent more than a few
years in any one place. The result was that he learned not to bother
to try and make new friends. His father eventually retired from the
army and they settled into the Old Bridge area. By now Max was 25
years old. However, even though he knew that they were here to stay,
Max found it difficult to make new friends. He would come to church
once or twice a week but didn't feel comfortable reaching out to
people because he never really learned how to. You've tried to talk
to Max a few times but he was always pretty quiet and never really
made much of an effort to carry the conversation any further. Then
one day you notice that Max seemed rather glum so you went over and
asked him what was up. He responded that he was lonely and can't seem
to make friends.
do you think that Max's biggest fears are?
specific advice would you give to Max?
are some truths or experiences about relationships that you have
learned that you can share with him?
are some topics that you can suggest to Max to use to open up
channels of communication? And what are some specific questions in
these suggestions that you can give to him? For example, you might
suggest that he ask about a person's employment. Within that topic he
might ask where they work, how long that person has been there, is
there a lot of interaction with the other employees, are there any
Christians there, etc?
do you think are some additional keys to establishing good
are some things that can kill a friendship?
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