December 9 - 15
A Friend for All Seasons
THERE IS MORE THAN ONE TYPE OF FRIEND.
When the editors of a magazine offered a prize for the best definition of
a friend, they received thousands of responses. One person wrote: A
friend is one who multiplies joys and divides grief. Another suggested:
A friend is one who understands our silence. Yet another said:
A friend is a volume of sympathy bound in cloth. The definition
that won the prize read: A friendthe one who comes in when the
whole world goes out.
A true friend is a treasure whose worth is beyond compare. A false friend, or one whose life is directed by a different value system, could constitute a major danger. God has given us insight and warning to guide us in the choice of our friends.
We need to develop our social awareness, so we might reach out in friendship to people where they are and minister to their needs. Reaching out to others is a privilege and a responsibility, as well as a spiritual gift. This week as you study, you will learn that the theology of friendship includes (1) companionship among loved ones who share similar values and convictions, (2) hospitality that brings others to Christ, and (3) kindness to strangers.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE:
I. A True Friend (Prov. 27:9, 10).
II. Friend or Fool? (Prov. 13:20).
III. Wounds or Kisses? (Prov. 27:6).
IV. The Saving Value of Hospitality (Prov. 25:21, 22).
V. Kindness To Strangers (Prov. 31:20).
MEMORY TEXT: Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20, NRSV).
What reason did God give for providing a companion for Adam? Gen. 2:18.
Deep in every heart lies a longing, even a craving, for companionship. Adam in Eden felt such a need before God created Eve. Lacking a friend with whom he could share his life, Adam could not have gained the greatest possible satisfaction from the beauties of a perfect world or the delights of employment, exploration, and expanding powers. As a social being, he needed the understanding, sympathy, and companionship of one who shared his nature. He needed someone with whom he could share human love.
Only once during Creation week did God say His plan was not good (Gen. 2:18). If it were not good for Adam to be alone, then surely God meant for marriage partners to be the best of friends. Marriage is especially meaningful when this is the case. No other feature of the marriage relationship can replace friendship. As friends, husband and wife can communicate about mutual interests and joys, challenges and sorrows. Spiritually and psychologically, the experience of having a partner who is a closer friend than any other human being greatly enriches our lives.
Those who are not married, for whatever reason, may enjoy the enriching experience of having close personal friends. Everyone needs someone with whom she or he can share confidences, joys, and sorrows. Though unmarried, the apostle Paul found deep satisfaction in the relationship of mutual dependence that he enjoyed with his fellow laborers. (See Phil. 4:3.) Because God created us to be social beings, we achieve our full potential in association with others.
By what comparison does Solomon indicate the value of a friend? What advice does he give? Prov. 27:9, 10.
Ointment and perfume were often quite expensive. Usually composed of olive oil, sweet spices, gum resins, or other aromatics, and often preserved in alabaster jars, these ointments were a sought-after luxury in Palestine. Some friends may be more like a cheap fragranceeasy to acquire, easy to give up, and not particularly valuable. But just as the pleasing aroma of a high-quality perfume "makes the heart glad" (NRSV) and lasts a long time, so does a true Christian friend inspire hope and faith. Such a friend is rare and worth more than silver and gold.
|How would you define a true friend? By what comparison would you indicate the value of such a person?|
What principle should we keep in mind when choosing our friends? Prov. 13:20.
Not only are we judged by the company we keep, but we tend to take on as our own the characteristics of our friends. The people and the things we love shape and fashion us. By beholding we become changed. (See 2 Cor. 3:18.)
"The youth fail to realize how sensibly both their character and their reputation are affected by their choice of associates. One seeks the company of those whose tastes and habits and practices are congenial. He who prefers the society of the ignorant and vicious to that of the wise and good shows that his own character is defective. His tastes and habits may at first be altogether dissimilar to the tastes and habits of those whose company he seeks; but as he mingles with this class, his thoughts and feelings change. . . . As a stream always partakes of the property of the soil through which it runs, so the principles and habits of youth invariably become tinctured with the character of the company in which they mingle."Messages to Young People, pp. 411, 412.
Since our friends inevitably influence us, let us choose them wisely.
Why does Proverbs 24:1, 2 caution us about the type of people with whom we associate?
Fostering an inclination or cherishing a desire usually results in giving in to it. While we cannot of ourselves change our hearts or control our inclinations and impulses, we do have the power of choice and can give our wills to God. "We can choose to serve God.. . then He will work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus our whole nature will be brought under the control of Christ."The Ministry of Healing, p. 176.
Close friendship with those who are not serving Christ involves certain hazards. Unconsciously, we are likely to absorb their habits. Associating too closely with those whose moral and ethical standards are not in harmony with the gospel can tarnish our purity and reputation.
|Since association with unbelieving friends is filled with spiritual danger, how can a Christian maintain spiritual integrity while seeking to win others to Christ? How does our motive have a determining effect on this process?|
What can we learn about true friends from Proverbs 27:6 and 27:17?
"Deceitful" kisses (KJV) bring to mind Judas the betrayer. In direct contrast is the Friend of friends who "was wounded for our transgressions," "was bruised for our iniquities" (Isa. 53:5).
"People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17, TEV). In order to make our learning well rounded, we need three kinds of friends.
1. The friend we most readily recognize is a peer, someone with whom we share ideals, concepts, and plans; someone who inspires us to be our best and achieve the most for the right reasons.
2. We also need a model, someone who personifies the goals we have set for ourselves, who has traveled the path before us, and to whom we can look for wise counsel. In some cultures, the segregation of generations and the breakup of extended families have brought unnecessary trauma and loneliness for the senior members of society, while at the same time robbing those who could benefit from their long experience.
3. Then there is the friend who admires us, regarding us as a pattern. We need to cherish the opportunity to be a friend to such a person, though the relationship may not be to our personal advantage. Only in eternity will we know the extent of our influence on such a person.
Bigotry, exclusiveness, and favoritism cannot reside in the heart of the true Christian. We need to remember "the Christlikeness of exhibiting a kindly interest, a social disposition, toward those who are in the greatest need, even though these may not be . . . [our] own chosen companions."Messages to Young People, p. 406.
Why is the counsel in Proverbs 17:9 so important?
Why is criticism and gossip so damaging to friendship?
"No Christian parent should permit gossip to be repeated in the family circle or remarks to be made disparaging the member of the church."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 242.
|What further roles should conversation have among Christian friends? How can these roles play a part in your conversation with friends?|
While the Christian's best and most intimate friends should be those who share his or her principles and convictions, it is also true that sanctified socializing can be a means of blessing others and bringing them into a proper relationship with God.
An enemy can sometimes become a friend through social contact of the right kind. How does the Bible writer suggest we go about this? Prov. 25:21, 22.
How did Jesus express the same sentiment we find in Proverbs 25:21, 22 and in Matthew 5:43-45?
We can win souls through friendship. We can attract to Christ and His love those who do not understand the distinctive message of Adventism, as we include them in our social occasions. When we remain separate from them, unwilling or unable to relate to them in relaxed social settings, they will not find our message attractive. Kindness is hard to resist. Most people readily give in to it!
Jesus associated with sinful people. In fact, the religious leaders of the day strongly criticized Him for it. (See Luke 5:30-32; 7:33, 34.) Jesus pointed out that He was associating with sinners because they needed His ministry. Never did He condone or excuse sin, and never did He enter into the evil pleasures and activities of the people for whom He was working. He staunchly resisted, however, the pompous exclusiveness of the Pharisees. Jesus demonstrated how we can win social outcasts for His kingdom and how we can most effectively reflect His love and witness for His truth.
"The example of Christ in linking Himself with the interests of humanity should be followed by all who preach His word, and by all who have received the gospel of His grace. We are not to renounce social communion. We should not seclude ourselves from others. In order to reach all classes, we must meet them where they are. They will seldom seek us of their own accord."The Desire of Ages, p. 152.
|What social programs does your church conduct that are attractive to nonmembers? How often do you have hospitality dinners for Sabbath visitors? If you have been doing these kinds of things, what results have you seen?|
What is one class of strangers whose lot in life the Bible urges us to relieve? Prov. 21:13; 31:20. How would you suggest that individuals and the church should follow this counsel?
Have you considered the needs of the homeless in your community? Some conferences have begun a special ministry to these people. If your church is located in or near a large city, what can you personally do for those who are without homes or jobs?
What directive is common to the following scriptures? Rom. 12:10-13; 1 Pet. 4:9, 10.
"These admonitions have been strangely neglected Among our own people the opportunity of showing hospitality is not regarded as it should be, as a privilege and a blessing. There is altogether too little sociability, too little of a disposition to make room for two or three more at the family board, without embarrassment or parade. . . . By the unexpected guest a welcome is appreciated far more than is the most elaborate preparation."Testimonies for the Church, vol.6, p. 343.
"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it" (Heb. 13:2, NIV). What a privilege! Angels are with us always, whether or not we can see them. They enjoy being in homes where people express love and kindness with their words, actions, and looks, and they are pleased at the sight of a well-regulated, orderly family that is willing to share good things with others. (See Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 115; Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 259; vol. 6, p. 342.)
Check the statements below that you want to incorporate into your own experience:
_______ I will pray that God will make me capable of being a true Christian friend to others.
_______ With the help of God, I will choose close friends who will help rather than hinder my spiritual life.
_______ With God's help, I will seek to develop my social abilities, so I can reach more souls for His kingdom.
_______ I will gladly share with others what God has entrusted to me.
|Now choose one or two of the items you have checked and list steps you can take to incorporate them into your life.|
For biblical examples of true friendship, read Ruth 1:6-18; 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 2 Kings 2:1-3; Matthew 27:55, 56; Luke 1:39-45.
Read "Hospitality," "Our Social Needs," and "Safe and Unsafe Association," in The Adventist Home, pp. 445-465.
"If choice is made of companions who fear the Lord, the influence will lead to truth, to duty, and to holiness. A truly Christian life is a power for good. But, on the other hand, those who associate with men and women of questionable morals, of bad principles and practices, will soon be walking in the same path. . . . To walk in the counsel of the ungodly is the first step toward standing in the way of sinners and sitting in the seat of the scornful."Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 587.
"The warmth of true friendship, the love that binds heart to heart, is a foretaste of the joys of heaven."The Ministry of Healing, p. 360.
SUMMARIZE this week's lesson by making a brief outline for the following areas in the theology of friendship: (1) companionship among loved ones who share similar values and convictions, (2) hospitality that brings others to Christ, and (3) kindness to strangers. Be sure to include Bible texts in your outlines.
General Ramiro Rojas is the commander of one of the most unusual police forces in the world. He leads the 130,000 officers of the national police force in Peru.
Several years ago an event took place that changed the course of Rojas's life and eventually touched the lives of millions in Peru. One of Rojas's close friends and police officers was a faithful Seventh-day Adventist. When the Adventist officer died in an accident, his widow told Rojas, "If my husband were alive today, he would want you to take his place as the only Adventist police officer in this city."
"I will do it," Rojas promised. And he did.
Rojas's new beliefs brought changes to his command. His troops became known for their honesty, refusal to take bribes, and high morale. The commander of the police at the time was dealing with serious ethical problems in the police force. He noticed the differences in Rojas' unit and asked his secret for raising the standard among those under his command.
Rojas answered, "Love for Jesus is changing my officers. They are learning to honor God." Rojas's squad became a model for the entire police force. Eventually, Ramiro Rojas became the commander of the entire Peruvian police force. His influence and leadership touches every police officer and virtually every citizen of the country.
When we visited Rojas in his office, he invited us to kneel for prayer. I was impressed as he poured out his heart to God.
A few minutes later his staff entered, and the general led them in a rousing gospel song, a Bible reading, and a short talk. After several staff members prayed, the group sang another lively song. After they returned to their duties General Rojas said, "We begin each day with God."
Rojas introduced us to Samuel Cueva, a recent graduate of Andrews University whose job is to share the ethical principles of the Bible with the police force of Peru. Rojas has formed small groups in every police unit to minister to the officers' spiritual needs. More than 500 officers have accepted Christ as their Saviour and been baptized. No pressure is placed on these officers to make a decision for Christ. They simply accept the spirit of prayer and Bible study put into place by Rojas and his team. The Holy Spirit does the rest.
General Rojas said, "God has changed the spirit of my officers!"
J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.
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Last updated November 12, 2000.