Wherever you live, there are those in your community, Pastor Adrian Rogers said, who “…are perishing for want of love and friendship.” They need you, and they need to know Jesus, the “friend of sinners.” (See Luke 7:34.)
Love Worth Finding is exploring what it means to be a true friend, the ways in which friends can encourage one another, and how to be a friend to “neighbors,” just like the traveler in Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan.
“One of the greatest and deepest needs of human hearts is for friendship,” Pastor Rogers said. “We have a longing for someone who knows us and loves us and accepts us, somebody with whom we can share, somebody who understands our deepest needs, our hurts, our fears, our wants, our victories. We need friends. To say that you don’t need a friend would be to deny your humanity.”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
People are continually battered by the enemy of true friendship. Like the man who was robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho, they are the victims of criminal inhumanity and casual indifference. But Jesus said they are our neighbors!
The robbers who beat the merchant and left him for dead in the account in Luke 10 were obviously criminally inhumane, but the religious and legalistic travelers who passed by without helping exhibited a casual indifference—a sin of omission—that was at least as damaging. Those who should have imitated God demonstrated a failure to love others, Pastor Rogers said.
“We must go beyond religion and rules to be good neighbors,” he explained. The priest who passed by represented loveless religion; the Levite who looked and left represented the law that is powerless to save. “The law can describe us, the law can study us, the law can condemn us, but the law cannot save us.”
It is the love of God that we need. If we follow the greatest commandment, to Love the Lord with heart, mind, and strength (see Matthew 22:37-38), we will understand and follow Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22:39). When we imitate Christ, we take on the qualities of a good friend.
The Good Samaritan in the parable is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, who taught us how to be a good friend, Pastor Rogers said. “He is the One who takes our place. He is the One who comes to us where we are. He is the One who’s moved with compassion! He is the One who pours in the oil! He is the One who pours in the wine. He is the One who puts us upon His beast! He is the One who brings us on where we need to go.”
Jesus is the true friend, the one who shows us how a friend loves, the one who overcomes religion and law through relationship.
For more on the Story of the Good Samaritan and what it teaches us about friendship, read the article, Good Neighbors Imitate Christ.
A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.
The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom for making friends, and how to first be the friend we all need.
A friend is someone who shares his or her strengths, blessings, and hope; a friend will share in hard times and in celebration; a friend loves at all times.
A true friend, a godly friend, is also someone who sharpens.
As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
A good friend is the sharp edge of our lives, who encourages, challenges, and confronts us when necessary; true friends make us better people.
And a friend is someone who sticks; Proverbs 28:14 says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
For more on how to share, sharpen, and stick, read the article, Building Good Friendships.
Real friendships, Pastor Rogers said, are built intentionally as we let people know we acknowledge, accept, and appreciate them. Loving actions and words of encouragement for a friend affirm people and assure them of God’s love.
Other than the Holy Spirit, good friends are perhaps the greatest sources of encouragement on the planet. Barnabas, a member of the Early Church talked about in the Book of Acts, was such a friend.
And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Using Barnabas as a prime example, Pastor Rogers said you can learn to encourage others in the Body of Christ in five specific ways:
For more on how to encourage someone, read the article, Five Ways You Can Encourage Others.
If you are a friend of Jesus, the “friend of sinners,” you must share the Gospel. Christ commands you (See Matthew 28:19), and love compels you. Even atheist and magician Penn Jilette asked of Christians, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
We are to imitate Christ.
Jesus showed us how to reach out to others who have been battered by the world, to listen intentionally, and to share His love. He showed us how to sharpen other believers and how to stick as a friend who is closer than a brother. He showed us how to encourage others. By selecting 12 disciples to walk with daily, and an inner circle of three disciples to draw in close, He showed us how to build close relationships.
We are to imitate Him as we share our faith with those who need to know Him, and as we relate to other believers, being careful always to identify and reach out to new believers who may need befriending.
Pastor Rogers said, “It is virtually impossible to spoil a baby the first year of its life. All of the love, all of the attention, all of the hugging, all of the kissing, all of the coddling you want to do, just do it. And I want to say, correspondingly, it is virtually impossible to spoil a newborn Christian.”