H. R. Shapland, Barnstaple
IN DEALING with this most important subject, it must be understood that it is written only for those who are 'Christian'.
Let us at the commencement be quite clear from the Word of God as to the meaning and implications of the word 'Christian'. Two passages are sufficient.
1. 'As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God', John i. 12-13. 2. 'Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?', 1 Cor. 6. 15. From that standpoint let us consider our subject in the light of God's Word. When God created man He said 'It is not good that the man should be alone. God places in every man and woman's heart a desire for companionship, a com¬panionship that is in the truest sense a friendship. He said of Adam, 'I will make him a help meet for him', a true companion for him, a true complement to him. First of all the animals were brought, and each one was appraised, according to its worth; but not one was found that fulfilled the conditions. Some are contented with the friendship of an animal and there is much of great value to be learnt from such friendship, as any true horse- or dog-lover can tell you. But no animal can take that place that God has purposed in your heart and life, for the one He has chosen for you to be your companion and friend. This may apply to friends of the same sex, or of the opposite sex, who remain only friends, or to friends of the opposite sex who become partners in life as man and wife. The 'wise man' says 'A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity', Prov. 17. 17. 'There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother', Prov. 18. 24. What docs this friendship involve ? A knitting together of the lives and souls of both, a complete sharing of thought and action, and absolute loyalty to one another. Such examples are David and Jonathan and again in the New Testament Onesiphorus and Paul.
COMPANIONSHIP AND ACQUAINTANCESHIP
God has seen fit to leave us in this world, amongst those who do not know Him.
Why? He gives us the answer in that revealing prayer of our Lord Jesus to His Father :
'I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil', John 17. 15.
'That the world may believe that thou has sent me', v. 21.
'That the world may know that thou hast sent me', v. 23.
'The world' called Him 'the friend of publicans and sinners'. If you arc going to be a true friend to your com¬panions and acquaintances in 'the world' it can only be as in the power of the Holy Spirit as He walks with you and within you and you walk at His side, in all His humility, gentleness, long-suffering and love. Alas, how many of us, His children, are looked upon by our neighbours as snobs and hypocrites. No one ever called Him that. He was rejected, and laughed at, so will you be. But you will find that when they are in trouble they will come to you as 'friend'. It is a slippery path, only He knows how slippery. But He has promised T will never leave you, nor forsake you'. Be a friend to those around you. That is very different from their being your friends. Through you He wants them to believe. Through you He wants them to know.
Acquaintanceship, companionship, yes, and together with that a longing desire to bring them into living union with Christ, but until then, there can be no union between you and them, no real friendship for as yet they are against your great Lover and Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout the history of Israel, their downfalls have followed the forming of friendships with the people of the land. Abraham sent his servant to his own people to find a bride for his son. Young people should seek friends, [and, above all, those friends who are to be their partners for life, in the household of God. Outside is darkness and unhappiness - a life without God's blessing. True friendship involves a complete sharing of thought and life, and an absolute loyalty to one another. Consider what this means, if given to an unbeliever; one who is not a member of the body of Christ, however dear he or she may be to you. Let God ask you the question He asked those Corinthians, 'Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ ?' And ask yourself that other question 'Shall I take a member of Christ's body, as I believe myself to be, and join it to an unbeliever?' Remember we are considering true friendship and all that it involves. Shall I take my hand and place it in the hand of that one, to hold in true and loyal friendship ? Think! That hand, has refused the clasp of your Saviour's hand. Shall I take my foot and step out on a pathway, to be shared in loyal friendship with one who is walking away from Christ, that Friend whom I profess to follow ? Shall I look into the eyes of the one whose friendship means so much to me, shall I let them look into my eyes, and shall we reveal our hearts and souls to one another? Such a look means union. Can you take those members of yours and join them to one who is not a member of His body? Why did the Lord say 'If ye love father or mother, or any other more than mc, ye cannot be my disciple?' To walk with one who is walking away from Christ makes it impossible for you to follow Him.
LOYALTY TO THE GREATEST FRIEND
Finally, consider Him who is the greatest Lover and the greatest Friend. He looked on you in your sin and loneliness. He loved you and came down where you were. He sold all that He had in order that He might redeem you, and make you His own. He bore your sin and degradation. He stretched out His hands for you, and He lifted you up into life and liberty. At the price of His precious blood He made you to walk with Him. Everything He has He shares with you. He is absolutely loyal to you. Such love is beyond all other loves. Are you going to be loyal to Him? Or are you going to give your love to one who loves Him not?