by Andrea Mingledorff
The Bible has a lot to say about relationships. Check out a few verses...
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
-1 Thessalonians 5:11
The Lord knew what He was doing when He included these tidbits of wisdom in His Word. We all desire friendships.
We all need a circle of influence--a community to be connected to.
That’s been the driving force and vision behind this Pursuing Virtue. But here’s the deal: sometimes it takes some work. Community doesn’t just happen. There’s something to be done on your part.
A man that hath friends must show himself friendly.
Are you reaching out? Do you extend a helping hand when you see a need? Are you a shoulder to cry on or a soul to laugh with? When you look at others, are you looking for an opportunity to show yourself friendly? If you want friends, you better be!
Or, when you look at others, do you find yourself searching for flaws? Do you see people with disdain instead of compassion?
Well, of course not, right? You’re a Christian, and that wouldn’t be very Christ-like. But how about if we phrase it this way... Have you ever looked at someone and asked yourself or another person any of these questions:
“What is she wearing?”
“Why does she always get to sing?”
“Did you see how she...(you fill in the blank)?”
Starting to hit a little closer to home? Yeah. I get it. Been there. I’ve found often it’s in times of transition when we become anxious about the work God is performing in us that we fall into this trap. Maybe you’ve just moved churches and you feel a little out of place. Been there, too. Maybe you’ve just moved schools or started college, and you’re not quite sure where you fit in the crowd. Yep, I’ve done that. And sadly, instead of reaching out to create or join a community, I’ve found myself looking at others with disdain and--if I could be really candid right here--jealousy. I was looking for a fault.
How did that work out for me? Rough. Really rough. I found myself an isolated and lonely young person, nursing my wounds. I didn’t have anything more than platonic relationships with others, and that was “fine.” But I would ask the Lord to send me someone to connect with. As much as I wanted to just be “okay,” I couldn’t. I believe the Lord created us with gaps that others must fill. Close, godly friends are made for one of those gaps!
So why wasn’t the Lord sending me friends?
The answer? He was. The Problem? It can be summed up with this verse...
The soul of the wicked desireth evil: his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes.
There were plenty of marvelous people surrounding me, but a bitter root had sprung up and blinded me.
I couldn’t see the greatness in those around me, not because it wasn’t there, but because I didn’t want to.
They couldn’t find favor in my eyes because I was refusing to see it. I was looking, and honestly desiring, to find something wrong with them!
The Lord smote my heart about my attitude toward others. What a sad way I was living! And in such direct contradiction to what the Lord had called me to.
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
-1 John 4:20
If I cannot look at someone who is made in the image of God with love, how can I possibly begin to say I love God? And furthermore--who I am I to search for fault in someone who is a creation of God, just like me?
What was the solution to my problem? Searching the Scriptures and finding out how God expects me, a Christian, to treat others. So if you need some help in that area, go back up & take a look at some of the verses I’ve already mentioned.
Scripture says that relationships are going to be virtually impossible when your heart is wicked (Proverbs 21:10). But the writer of Proverbs doesn’t leave us there. Hop down to verse 21 of the same chapter. Here’s how to create and surround yourself with a community:
He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.
I want to be righteous. I want to be like God. So I have to extend mercy instead of passing off judgements over silly things. And oh, the blessings that follow when I live by this discipline!
Instead of living downcast, I find joy in life! Instead of wickedness in my heart, I have peace with God because He has imputed Christ’s righteousness to me. Instead of living in isolation, I have been honored with a circle of amazing friends that I couldn’t imagine doing life without.
So if you ever find yourself in a place of isolation, wondering why you’re not connected to a community, take a moment to check your heart and your actions. Not sure where to start? Here are a few things you could do to live this out practically:
Reject any and all harsh thoughts, and force yourself to replace them with one or two good things.
Look for an opportunity to bless someone else. Maybe you’re able to do this financially, or maybe you could simply bake cookies to brighten up their day. (Shout out to my sister-in-law, Reba. She’s a professional at this!)
Give out at least one compliment a day--not always to the same person. (Disclaimer: make sure you’re honest!)
Smile a little.
Pray a lot!
Remember, each day is an opportunity to live like Christ. He never isolated Himself, but He was and always is reaching out for others. Look for the good things; I promise you’ll find them.