Thursday, June 6, 2019

Playing With Friends Who Steal Your Toys

Suggested Reading: John 2:13-25

When I was a kid, I used to play with a kid down the street named "Jack." My mother never really liked Jack and she let me play with him against her better judgment because I liked him and thought he was my friend. It didn't matter to me that Jack tended to make fun of me and insult me. I didn't seem to care that Jack cheated when we played games together. He treated me like dirt but I insisted he was my friend and kept playing with him. Not until the day that we were in my room playing with my new He-Man toy and Jack decided he wanted it, abruptly stood up, and ran to his house with my prized toy did I realize Jack wasn't really my friend. After chasing him down and forcing him to give me my toy back I vowed that I would never call him my friend again.

Unfortunately, many of us continue to struggle with that lesson well into adulthood. The universal struggle to distinguish our friends from those who only claim to be our friends is one of the reasons the author of Proverbs wrote, There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24, NLT).  We all desire to have friends, people we can enjoy things with, people we can trust and confide in, people who like us as much as we like them. But we often find ourselves looking back at friends who have betrayed us and realize we should have known better. Sometimes we extend this struggle to romantic relationships, confusing those potential partners who only claim to care for us with those who actually do.

Part of the secret to avoiding this confusion is by watching our friends' behavior, both toward us and toward other people. We must learn that a person who treats us like crap, who insults us and demeans us, who just treats us badly, is not our friend, however much they may claim to be or however much we wish they were. We can still interact with those people, but we must exercise discretion with regard to how much we trust them. Even Jesus faced this dilemma in John chapter 2 when a large number of people saw his miracles and claimed belief in him. We are told Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man for he knew what was in a man (John 2:24-25, NIV). Jesus knew that not everyone who claimed to believe him really was his friend and Jesus showed discretion about who he trusted. But no one can claim that Jesus didn't love the people around him.

As followers of Christ, we must learn to show discretion in the people we trust. We can love everyone, but we must be as wise as serpents, remembering that not everyone who claims to be a friend really is. Learn to distinguish your real friends based on their behavior. Showing discretion with your friendships is not cynical or uncaring; rather it is the epitome of wisdom. You cannot afford to be influenced by someone who claims to be your friend but consistently shows you otherwise.

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