I spent the evening with friends and it seems they were each needing some time with a friend that lets them share anything and everything that has built up and has been festering beneath the surface of their individual realities for sometime. It’s in moments like this that the art of keeping the dialogue to a more gentle openness, a passive activity in silence because most of the time they don’t need advice; they need a friend willing to become the role of support that is found in an understanding and receptive confidant. Tonight I was useful in the lives of others by quietly offering a silent sanctuary for their concerns, feelings, thoughts, and need for such a repository to be secured with a trust that keeps these confidences bound to the friend they leaned upon.
It’s not that everything in such moments are the secrets and confessions of epic calamity and headline grabbing gossip but by allowing others to find a place of acceptance without exception builds the confidence required for such needs to be met by exhibiting that each burden that is shared is given the same careful attention and assurance to unequivocal privacy. It isn’t that I’m asked to keep it secret, it’s not even that I promise them this during the conversation, it is the experience that they find when I never share what has been entrusted to me and those moments of release never find their way back to them through others. It is through such opportunities that I find people often sharing events and memories of themselves that they have never spoken of with others before, and each time I’m blessed to be told “I don’t know why I just shared this with you” I know that I’ve been given yet another avenue to prove they have found a friend that will be that sacred diary to which they can shed whatever they want or need into a refuge free from judgment.
It isn’t always easy to break the facade of being glib, with satirical western cynicism pushing for every opportunity to drop a new a punchline, but when I see people starting to bring the conversation to a personal and intimate affair then I insist on being what I would always want to find in another as I sought to unburden myself with the things I carry. It is why I believe that I have carried so much on my own journey that I now find that others never have a weight that has been too great for me to assist in their toil and I’ve been blessed by the grace that allows me to keep their confidence while also offering the same treasure of friendship free from the judgement in their righteousness or guilt that so often malign the views towards the confessor once knowledge of some secret is shared. I’m not their priest or therapist that is bound by oaths to keep myself on a certain construct in moral and governing ethics. I’ll be their priest if that is what they need me to be, sometimes having anyone verbalizing forgiveness is a boon I’ve been allowed to offer to deal with unresolved guilt…I don’t claim to be a parson, pastor or vicar but the ability to play the role of one when a friend has need is something that I know will always be an asset and joy for me for the rest of my life.
I have found my refuge in my spiritual life, and I am able to find relief from the woes and worries that plague reality as I know it. There is a hymn that was once popular among Christian circles, “what a friend I have in Jesus” which I always found frustrating that religion taught me to seek the peace and support of an invisible loving savior that neither appears nor speaks to his penitent worshipers. This was an adult acceptance of the pretend friend only entire theological systems of thought are built to inshrine this highly held belief that he is beyond our empirical sense to understand but must be believed. I found some solace to my quandry when I learned that Jesus never once asked people to worship him but repeatedly asked them to follow his example. The friend I seek to be is the friend I should have found when someone chose to be Jesus in my life, instead of just telling me to pray to him. I’m not saying you won’t find God in the silent solitude of prayerful intercourse, I’m saying don’t expect people to find alone what they have never been shown in another. I don’t tell my friends to take their burdens to Jesus, I’m willing to be that friend in their life because that is what friendship requires and deserves. It’s not a religious law to be obeyed, it’s just becoming for another what is needed for the moment in a way that allows them to meet their obligations and continue their journey with the support of a friend that understands the burdens of all that life seems to present without regard for what many deem merits of virtue and the lack there of in our lives. We need friends that can be that personal refuge that religion often proclaims but doesn’t provide. We need that ability to find that even when we do something terrible and horrendous we still have someone in our lives that is there being our pillar of support that doesn’t give the tirade of shame and blame while still believing they can ever be someone from whom another would seek solace, which is not found in judgment, nor forgiveness, but in the total trust that I’m accepted in this person’s life exactly as I am, and that doesn’t change. If I see myself as their morale facilitator to a more righteous life then I will always be weighing everything they say and do according to my standard of right and wrong and feeling justified in doing so. This is a problem many christians can’t avoid as they make a law out of being accountable to each other in their holy vs. unholy deeds of necessary exhibition to be considered an upstanding and devout believer or one they insist can’t possibly find favor from God because their sin prevents it.
My friends failures to be morally righteous is not a litmus test for their ability to count on me to be in their life, the shoulder they need, the comfort they seek, and a stable support to turn when they have violated every reasonable expectation to ever find me there for them again. I am that benevolent saving grace that they should find in their life, and it’s appalling that Christians don’t get that they aren’t sought by their loved ones during these times because they honestly believe they are judged inferior and as failing in their eyes and will always be so unless they change their way of life and adhere to the way considered righteous by their family and friends of religious conviction. This means people don’t see Jesus in Christians, they see accusation, condemnation, and no stability as they can always fail in those expectations again and again and they really don’t even no why such standards of morality are required for a supposed “free gift” anyway. They won’t ever learn the reasons offered because Theology is taught with priority over deeds such as the merciful reception of a friend in sin on a daily basis, being active in their supposedly sinful lives as apposed to being into a undesirable social experience in our church life) and then when they do have dire need for a friend like Jesus, there going to call on the one that has been in their life all along, with new value on what this Christian lives over what others kept inviting him to join while sanctimonious separation of themselves from the unclean to set the example of what one should do if we believe. Because God separates himself from sinners, because for some reason he just can’t stand to be around those who need Him and don’t know it…wait, I thought Jesus was always hanging with the unclean, unworthy, and undesirable? Well that is why we worship him because he is capable of being a friend and we are not; holy people have to think of their image, reputation and the value of their good name in the eyes of their brothers and sisters in the church they attend, while the one in need of the friend, or will be in need one day, is left to carry on without such loyalty and opportunity to experience the value of true acceptance based on unconditional grace from a friend, and finally come to value the worth of a savior in that unglorified practice of being in their worldly life as the very presence of God, the one trusted to be there by experienced repetition instead of the pity and handout from a mere stranger that invites to their rather boring meetings a few times a year at church and over for a holiday meal where they are expected to behave lest they offend through cursing, drinking, strung out, lack of certain edicate to appropriate table talk, and even if not overt they feel that uncomfortable burden of expectation to be something they are just not and honestly don’t feel a big desire to be even for a short yearly visit and rather resent that they have that expectation over them at all…and I agree! If someone doesn’t act a certain way around me it is their choice to offer that as a show of their own sign of respect or appreciation or value for me, but I don’t expect it…and Christians have no right to expect it as if it is owed to them either, remember, you are a stranger in a strange land, a foreigner in a land that does not value your righteousness as something to be pursued.
The best way to give Christianity a much-needed image enhancement is to stop teaching them to be active and engaged worshipers and say “lets spend a year learning to be a real friend to someone in our life that is not of the same values and beliefs”, be a loyal support to one of the ones you gave up and don’t hang with anymore sense your conversion, be there for that family member that was your b.f.f. until a change in beliefs lead you in a different direction and now that friendship seems like another lifetime, and you find the atmosphere in their company is almost foreign to your comfort zone for social expectations.
How many Christians no longer know any music that is found on your family and friends playlists? Is it because you hate the music or because it isn’t uplifting and positively echoing the doctrine that you embrace? Or yeah some people just fear the devil so much that you can’t possibly trust yourself to be out there where all hell is waiting to keep you from the victory of an obedient life…laughable, they keep you from being a daily friend and presence in the lives of those you say you love and all the devil has to do is get you to focus on your own righteousness and living the obedient life and damn, he has achieved the goal you fear…keeping you from Love, (to know love one must first become love), and that isn’t found in the strict priority to ” I’m a firm believer in the inerrancy of scripture” while your friend in need won’t spend time with you because he perceives his inadequacy to be worthy in your life? See your insistence to devout doctrinal adherence and need to fight the apologetic merits of why such and such is so, means absolutely nothing to God if what he wants is your mercy in the lives of those who need to be shown loyal compassion and a true friend of unmerited grace, not your sacrifices to the better improvement of character and productive regurgitation of the plethora of teachers proclamations on the prerequisites for essential Christian character in the dicipleship of the very ones who already have a ministry in the world of their friends and coworkers. This ministry is effectively ruined for any act of loyal service in the love that friendship avails itself by removing them from any familiarity with those previous sinner acquaintances, leaving the once succesful bond that could have been continued if left slightly less indoctrinated into greater moral achievement for meritorious aclaim and necessary resume facts for opportunity in leadership, because the veneere of the morally justified should never be seen as something that someone woulld achieve merely to be successful at their professional trade, nobody hires a morally objectionable preacher, the discovery of such disqualifying characteristics are always discovered later because it appears that people really can pretend to something they are not and often do, and religious service is in no way immune to the image maintence for better work experience found in throughout our society of being solicially polite and desirable until our nasty selfish ids rule the roost for the joy that only family seem privaledged enough to never justify rating worthy of polite etiquette and respect given freely to strangers…and I am guilty of that sin in no small unforgettable ways. Now bereft of the one that has access to a new concept of the depth and value of Love in simple attendance in their too sinful daily lives they are left abandoned for a concept we Christians are taught in Church as a necessary step to a closer relationship to God and a better witness to the world for the awarenes that God has done for us what we couldn’t do for our selves when we were like our former friends unenlightened to the depravity of our own existence. Granted, a life freed from addictions and other slavery’s of the options available for the those in need of escape from their turmoil is a wonderful grace and herald, but most Christians don’t have that story, they just decided to return to a custom they were taught that is the path to a better and more meaningful way of living and began to accept the invitations to become more involved in their instruction and participation in their local place of worship. They make their signs of devotion and conversion through the rites and rituals of traditional methods of dedication, baptism, confirmation and other such things as giving a testimony before the congregation for the herdal of public proclamation to the Name of Jesus because that is another obvious sign of genuine transformation, because no teen or young adult ever lied or said something to that degree simply to find a means of acceptance that never seems to quite feel the void within no matter what group is sought for some form of inclusion and need for that value found from the appreciation amongst our peers for anything as long as acknowledgment is offered to our woefully deficient intimacy of any type due to our rather guilt ridden lives for our not so very depraved but inflated insecurities over past discretions in an attempt to pretend to be part of a group we aren’t actually morally in tune with and too pressed to join the flow of the socially acceptable too realize that we find comfort and acceptance in a group we still like but are now brainwashing ourselves into believing that we are just weak in our faith and lack stature of the more mature Christian that honestly doesn’t find the life left behind the preferred option and is uncomfortable thinking of her friends as tools of depravity that will sway the new convert that lacks true roots back to a way of living that is more often than not the scene we find Jesus in attendance as apposed to the need to be more assimilated into those who have made it obvious by behavior modification to be seen as respectable and honorable members of the faith…( I honestly am baffled that nobody ever sees the connection between Phaiseic law and the observances to which are behavioral modifications so as to be accepted in the respectable circles of jewish life with the obvious insistence that behavior be adjusted to the inerrant standards of the Holy Bible, which means it isn’t a law but it cant be broken cause it is an iffalliable direction to the ability to be successful in a Christian manner of living, which means those that don’t make such sacrifices to the enforced non-law expectations are obviously not serious about their relationship with Jesus and besides such people are just Sunday Christians. The fields that were the previously known vineyards of the newly converted were ripe with new opportunities to be the love that changes a life, not our own, (a disciple of Christ is called to serve), and the becoming of the Savior in the form of the unwavering loyalty of being the friend that can always be counted on and the one that never presents a need or fear to believe that im some how no longer good enough to be the companion I once was because you changed. Why is the fact that you changed make the other the deviate…does that mean if I change to the deviate you become the one that is caught up in a philosophy that prevents you from experiencing the life of freedom the deviate enjoys without conviction? A life of new values and moral integrity is only perceived as new found freedom if the one embracing said doctrines is convinced that the sacrifice is worth it…otherwise major manifestations of undeserved guilt and self doubt to their abilities to be among the more morally mature are destined to be a pestilence that will plague them until a choice of either side of the fence in that moral delima is finally given prefence.
Iit’s impossible to know in it’s fullest and most intimate sense, what you are not willing to become and experience completely yourself, so the only way to have a friendship with Jesus (in personal secret intimacy) would be to be Jesus for another. That infers to grow in intimate understanding of the friend we find in Jesus, we have to be living that daily cross of mercy for the needed intervention of another’s behalf (because they aren’t able to meet this need without our grace in their lives as their intercessor in living witness to the duty demanded upon all who would Love as Jesus loves us. The best part of this is the seeds of our work were sown before we knew Love at all, we developed our report and value of our friends and ministry while we were still bereft of our own understanding of Love; this can’t be forsaken because of our new view of drinking, sex, and where I now spend my Sundays, singing and listening to another exposition of the historic collection of God’s correspondance rather than sleeping in or chasing that hair of the dog. It is the relationship in which we are Christ that is paramount not our floundering attempt to find Christ for myself in some more meaningful since of how some represent Christ as a loving servant by becoming a Pharisee of Pharisees in devotion to Christian character and moral mojo for greater impact upon the ever so impressionable Godless liberal leftists that are obviously only moments away from total concession to the benevolent insistence that humanity needs to accept the infallible guidance of the morale majority. Somehow God will prove He is all loving when those who willfully disobey that which they do not believe and are forced through punishment to capitulate to our Wisdom and admit that God loves them because he answered our prayers for moral superiority and the grace to allow us to only live as constant contenders for power in control over what others must believe or at least obey in subjugation while the Love that fulfills the Law, (yes when we live out unconditional love we are fulfilling all of the law), is neglected and forsaken as a Way that just isn’t ever the motif operandi of the vast modern movement of Christian Denominations that resist the simple call to serve among the worldly infidels, for the greater call to sacrifice for the ability to influence behavior. They don’t need examples of grand moral behavior and how it keeps some of the consequences of immorality from birthing in our lives, that is a practical wisdom but some people like the lifestyle that comes with the risk, and to them, it’s just a cost of living.
Their NEED is for the Presence of Loyal Commitment without the fear of possibly losing that acceptance from their Friends, and for that loyalty to be proved true even while undeserved and even persistently found available when rejected and refused for whatever reason they may act upon. That is what we all need everyday, somebody to be that Rock of devotion that is there when opportunity reveals that friends need the very support that we have made evident and our help is sought because of that act of love for a friend. Through all tests of devotion and evident until the end …the love shown with such devotion to another is the Life and the Truth that we become the bearer and herald in the deeds born from the once sinful communion of two people just trying to find their way with the understanding that their experience had prepared them to face, the choices made and personal values adopted with the resources available to their still developing since of self.
After all this I don’t expect Christians to forsake beliefs, head to the bar and start rebelling against their own conscience, but i do believe that some serious reflections upon what you give up in your faith when you choose to be the moral example rather than the less morale loyal lover of God to the people that he or she has come to know. The foundations for a strong and developed relationship that has the shared years of experience for both to remember in their continued growth together as they trust the fruit that loyalty reaps, a relationship and trust in God is being determined by my willingness to just be true to that support for the other. It’s not about worship, it’s about portraying the model of the friend we see in our Christian presentation of a Savior and the birth and development of a new faith placed in the emissary of that Christian Savior; we don’t seek their adoration, we are rewarded with the evidence of their faith in us proclaiming that the unseen God that taught us about true loyalty has been seen, we give substance to our invisible benefactor and sage, we fulfill that role for faith in God to exist, without one prayer uttered, without scripture, without evangelization and countless invites to events they have no interest in attending; this is us being the Friend we have in Jesus, and the prayers we lived are the countless conversations we engaged in together that allowed our experience to be the fulfillment of all that is needed for our dear friend to experience what it is to know Love that casts out all fear, finishing the perfection of righteousness not through legal obedience to conduct but through the building of intimacy that allowed the relationship itself to be lived, shared, and trusted so that a belief in us to be what they need and receive is the very belief suggested as the only requirement needed to have in Jesus. If we earn their trust and keep it then we have been their grace for all that will ever be required of them and maybe they will in turn become the promised Messiah for the friend in Need for another in their family or brought into their path further along the journey.
Important to ask, is a prayer of acceptance, a baptism, a daily active role in the Church truly more precious to God than being the vessel that proves his devotion to another,day in and day out, as a Friend who hasn’t experienced a life changing epiphany in beliefs and values yet God still views as the one that wandered off? Are we not always building the importance of the preservation of the 99 when his example is to forsake the safe 99 and go to the one not with them? A shepherd doesn’t send invitations out to the lost one to come join the 99, he goes to it, cares for it and leads by being in the life of that sheep so much that it knows the voice of the one helping him home and follows the shepherd through the experience and knowledge it has gleaned while with the shepherd each day. The 99 are safe , do you know why? The shepherd isn’t there so they don’t wander as his voice is not present for them, they remain until the one they trust is there to be what they need, so they don’t even need God with them to be in the grace of that constant support because they are listening for the expected guidance they have come to depend upon. These 99 are the ones that should be aIready living as loyal friends amongst each other providing a constant presence of unconditional acceptance and the existence of trust a living expectation among them all to be found for all in some path of friendship among the many safely dwelling in a life cloistered from the hasards found when facing the world alone.
It’s not easy to prove true to even one other soul, let alone many, because the actual reception of such dedication is needed, but also the value can be obscured, as many won’t understand the act of selfless presence of true support, and will continue to care, but ultimately place a higher value on the selfish desires of their own when making decisions that impact the perceived level of commitment and intimacy in a negative way while leaving the loving friend to bear that anguish of the cross that day on his own, and that is where in his commitment to love the depth and awareness of his own inner silence of a friendship that developes through this passion of their own grows and becomes the very gift that is being provided in this friendship, received or not, is still daily proven faithful to be there for the other, just as now within us the need to bear that burden is being ever-present to support our labour in this venture for our place in the great gift that is provided for us to learn through living, and receiving through giving. This is the path before us, and the call of the current followers to a challenging life while accommodating the very nature we all have at finding the chaffing associated with a demand of obedience to laws we just don’t always find pleasing to the way in which we choose to live.
In it’s essence: love someone without judgement, and be that friend they need, sometimes all that need may be is someone who is always available to listen and that over time proves the worth of trust they have never been able to give to another before and that is a great testimony for Christian to have for his own: I taught someone who had no faith to place faith in another for the first time, and that faith was proven true in the friendship we shared. I am the Friend who became the Love that my friend learned to rely upon and so I now share in the honor that though religion is not prevalent, the faith needed to believe in a love that is offered up for this friend is true, given freely, and manifests itself in the very act of loyal devotion modeled. The fulfilment of all need for perfect righteousness is in the loyalty we live in love as we develop and give God the means to be seen in the friendships that come to fruition as a result of our faithfulness to be a true friend for those we already love.
Freedom from fear of judgement is a gift found in the Love that is given with such unconditional commitment. This is proclaimed in 1st John and evidence of this unseen Truth when we teach our friends through experience that we do not ever hold them accountable for acts of perceived failure, guilt or weakness in any law or code and give them the memories that faith will spring into them in a God they see only as a friend, never as a judge, and lives in their life as an equal in stature and existence, if the benevolent savior and God is allowed to wear the face of someone in their life. An evangelist preaching salvation who is unwilling to be that savior is a worthless tomb covered up with the evidence of a morale example of what is uncontested by many as the hallmarks of a strong character in confomance to the Pauline attributes of what to expect from those who would become the leaders of the universal church. If these were trustworthy measures of God at work in a person then such leaders would prove true to their tests of character, but these are painfully exemplefied as traits that we can choose to emulate without really ever having a heart for living according to such sacrificial standards to the natural and more primal desires that often plague the men that try to maintain a facade that allows them to live in a manner that is inconsistant with their own code of conduct given in pulpit conviction without any visible signs of conviction for their blatant lack of sincerity. These meritous and admittedly not something to be seen as invaluable in an effort to glean the most concervative risks in practical application of certain values are not the qualities that drew the attention of Jesus, not even in the choosing of his own inner circle, the 12 aposotles. These do not hold the scrutiny of the One we claim to follow as determinations for credibility in establishing trust. You want to prove trustworthy Christ says “follow me”; Jesus expects trust in a person to be built upon the loyalty to be what another needs as their friend to the degree that he set in his example! If you can’t be loyal without conditions in that relationship as a friend so that expectation of what is sought can be found each and everytime the need is presented then that is evidence of a failed opportunity “to love each other as I have loved you” and that is what we can expect from a person trying to be something they aren’t in their heart, true devotion to friendship is not hit and miss, because that is not how God wants to be perceived. Faith will not manifest where experience teaches a lack of reliability in the object sought to provide the need, and there are poor misguided Christians all over the world who honestly believe that God is the kind of friend who will hear your need and then “well it’s my opinion that you should suffer through this alone because I’m all knowing and this is for your benefit”…I don’t need a friend who determines the fate of my burdened experience by becoming someone I view as an inconsistant resource to call upon in a crisis, in fact, not someone I’m going to confide much in at all as he obviously is going to do whatever is in his plan and my burden is my own problem to try and manage. However what I am shown through Jesus is to just let him know the need and I would find a friend in deed, that is what Jesus blazed before the multitudes for an honest bequest upon those who would listen to become his continual presence in the obedience to exhibiting the true representation of a loyalty and friend that could be found dependable in the lives of those who he desired to understand the faith that only very few ever seemed to grasp. Man just can’t grasp the invisible and unquantifiable nature of an existence that should be found as the foundation to build our friendship upon, and thus another way of knowing this immeasuralbe gift of partnership is presented through Jesus, and finally expected that we will bridge the spiritual divide by becoming the tangible and relevant gift of God for a friend in laying the foundation of dependibility in the hope that faith in that foundation will allow the establishment of the promised communion together as faith allows for memories and many times of collaboration in the diverse and endless opportunities that avail each day and allow for more to be experienced as that loyalty supports every moment in their days together allowing that relation to stand through any calamity or grand attempts to live unexpected dreams because the need to have the support to make the risk worth it is confidently embedded in a lifetime of other risks taken in dependence upon that same source to be the one to be there if the worst should happen and have that peace of knowing even then, I won’t be alone. I will have the help I need to pick up the pieces and find I have a lot that I never lose because it all stands upon that faith in the One that I call my Friend, and that is something I know longer use in reference to just anybody….see, I get to set the standard for what he should expect to find in a friendship that he can trust. And that means, he knows my voice and depends upon it, and trusts it as we walk together. My friends find i’m not uncomfortable in the participation and attendance of the lives they chose, and I am honored to experience the journey they allow me to share along side them.