To Love a Friend

I came across a post recently that got me thinking. It was intended to be one of those empowering, self-care type posts, but as good as it sounds, it goes completely against what the Bible says.

“They may love you. But if they can’t choose you, you must walk away. You are way too valuable to linger and to wait. And you deserve to be chosen unconditionally.”

So many thoughts here, but I want to point out that I’m addressing friendships and how God expects us to treat others. This is not about abusive relationships or betrayed trust. This is about you and me, Christians, and how we are called to be as followers of Christ.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35

Love one another. Such a simple concept, yet often so hard. To love those who love us is easy. Jesus acknowledged that.

“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
Matthew 5:46

But what He’s calling us to? Complete, conditionless, unfailing love for friend and enemy alike.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Matthew 5:43-45

Is Jesus saying that we should just keep putting ourselves out there to potentially be taken for granted, hurt, taken advantage of, and walked all over? Technically yes. I know that this is an unpopular answer, but we need to look at what Jesus is saying here.

God sends the common graces and blessings of life to people regardless of their relationship with Him. Whether they love Him or are living in constant rebellion, God shows them His love. As God’s children we are being transformed into His likeness, which means that our love is growing to look like His. If you’re afraid of seeming like a doormat, consider these verses:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have you cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
Matthew 5:38-42

The Bible tells us to be wise and discerning; why do these verses seem to contradict that? Notice the context here. These verses come right before Jesus’ words about loving your neighbor. It has nothing to do with trust. It has everything to do with love and humility. You know who had perfect love and humility?

“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head.”
Matthew 27:27-30

“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive, for they do not know what they do.’” 
Luke 23:33-34a

If Jesus can be loving and humble, even as they tore His flesh from His body and killed Him, surely we can be loving and humble when others aren’t.

Let’s go back to the post that got me thinking:

“They may love you. But if they can’t choose you, you must walk away.”

What if Jesus had done this? I grew up in an environment that led me to love Him, but I didn’t choose Him first. If Jesus followed this advice, I never would’ve been saved. None of us would! But what did He do instead?

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”
John 15:16

He chose us. He cultivates us so that we will bear Christlike fruit. He commands us to love others.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
John 15:9-14

It doesn’t matter if your friends aren’t choosing you. That’s their choice. If they love you, they’ll likely choose you again. But when they do, are you going to be there?

That’s your choice. Will you love them with Christ’s love, even when it hurts? Will you continue to have joy for them, even when you have your own sorrows and are in need of a friend? Would you lay down your life for them, even when they don’t choose you? Jesus did.

In fact, He spoke these words on the night of the Passover. He was walking with His disciples from the upper room to the garden where He would be betrayed and arrested. His hour had come. Jesus was telling the disciples to love one another and lay down their lives for each other, fully knowing that’s what He was about to do for them.

“You are way too valuable to linger and to wait.”

Your value is not determined by the attentions of others. I’ve been discarded by enough friends to know that, while this is true, it’s incredibly hard to believe. I mean, I’m the only common factor in all these sunken friendships. It must be me, right?

Emotionally, I want to make it all about me. Not consciously, of course. It’s a very subtle lie that creeps in unannounced. But it is a lie. It’s not about me at all. I’m already chosen and loved by Christ! For me, each friendship is an opportunity to show Christ’s sacrificial love to someone else. It isn’t about me or my value. My job as a friend and as a Christian is to love.

“Love suffers long and is kind… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:4; 7-8a

As wonderfully noble as all of this sounds, I’ve got news.

You’re going to to get hurt.

Putting yourself out there mentally and emotionally, investing yourself into your friends, is a risk. You can be the best friend possible and still get hurt. And when you do, it will be tempting to close yourself off, put up walls, and make yourself difficult to get attached to. If you do that, you’re setting yourself up for bitterness and a very hard heart.

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
John 15:11

In love, there is joy and there is pain, but I can tell you from experience that the joy is greater because of the pain. Choosing to love anyway has opened my heart to so much more, and I’ve been given more to love. Pain often gives opportunity for love to multiply.

I can’t love this way on my own. You can’t either. The same passage in John 15 says:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
John 15:4-5

It is Christ’s love that we are cultivating and reflecting through our own lives. It doesn’t matter what others do. The way that we choose to love is a testimony to others and a representation of Christ.

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