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Oh, What A Friend We Have

Over the years, my kids have had vocabulary assignments where they’ve needed to write an antonym for each word on a list. When my kids were in first and second grade, the antonyms were pretty obvious. The opposite of “happy” is “sad.” The opposite of “up” is “down.” Easy peasy. We got this, kid. (Insert fist-bump here).

But now, my kids are teenagers, and the word lists are more complicated. What’s the antonym for “infamous” or “rancorous”? Or maybe “technique” or “squander”? (It kills me when they want an antonym for a noun. Insert eye-roll here).

Okay, what about the word “aloof”–what’s the antonym for that? I have an unexpected suggestion for that one! But first, let’s chat about Friendship, our Humble Faith theme of the month.

Sometimes friendship comes naturally and easily and lasts a lifetime. You and your bestie are two peas in a pod from the very beginning. You uplift one another and can be 100% yourself around each other. She is your ride-or-die, your shoulder to cry on. She prays with you, inspires you, and listens intently to you. These are the people you don’t clean your house for–they have their own key and just show up unannounced in their sweats and messy bun. Sometimes with your favorite Starbucks drink in hand. Score! You hit the friendship jackpot. (Praise God, I have a few of those!)

But sometimes, it’s not that easy. A friendship you seek doesn’t happen. You try to get to know the person, but the closeness is just not attainable despite your desire, common values/interests, and best efforts. You admire and respect this person from afar, but you can’t find a way in. You may even go so far as to make plans, but they always fall through. Somehow the friendship is always just beyond reach. This person is just … aloof.

I honestly think most people don’t mean to give off this vibe–it can happen due to many factors. Maybe their friend circle is at capacity, and they have nothing left to give, or they’re hurting in invisible ways. Perhaps they’re just shy. Or they’re burdened by their own load to carry and aren’t noticing you. But it can still sting when we perceive someone as standoffish.

And then, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s less subtle–it’s flat-out rejection. You aren’t invited to the get-together. Your texts are left on “read.” Your initiations are ignored, or you’re always the initiator. You’re told the group is full. You scroll social media and see everyone having fun without you. Or maybe a friendship you’ve cherished in the past abruptly ended and the reasons are unclear. OUCH!

It occurs to me that Jesus’ love and friendship with us are not like human friendship. It’s never on shaky ground. It’s not fickle, unpredictable, or dismissive. It’s not dependent on our performance, effort, or perfection. In fact, Jesus is the opposite of aloof. (His name is literally what I would suggest if the word showed up on a vocabulary antonym assignment!)

Jesus’ mission on earth was “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), showing that He is not only accessible and available when we call out to Him, but indeed He is often the seeker, the initiator of relationship. One of my favorite things about God is that He pursues. And in so doing, He sets a meaningful example for how we should relate to one another.

My father-in-law once endeavored to draw a downward-facing arrow in the margins of his Bible whenever he came across an example of heaven/earth contact initiated by heaven. There were a LOT of down arrows!

Here are a few examples from both the Old and New Testaments:

  • God came looking for Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:9).

  • God initiated contact with Abraham (Genesis 15:1), Isaac (Genesis 26:2-5), and Jacob (Genesis 28:12-15) to announce and confirm His covenant with them.

  • God sought Hagar after she fled (Genesis 16:7).

  • God pursued Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3: 1-4).

  • Jesus called the twelve disciples one by one (Matthew 10:1-4, Luke 6:12-16).

  • Jesus initiated contact with a Samaritan woman (John 4:7-26).

  • Jesus used the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin (Luke 15:3-10) to demonstrate the pursuing nature of God.

  • Jesus reached out to a crippled beggar (John 5:6).

  • Jesus pursued the blind man after he was thrown out of the synagogue (John 9:35).

  • Jesus went to Martha’s home, seemingly without invitation (Luke 10:38).

  • Jesus noticed and healed a crippled woman in the synagogue (Luke 13:12).