Lately, I’ve been blessed to be able to maintain several friendships with some really solid Godly men and women. One of those men is Mike, who I affectionately call “the black brother I never had.” Every now and then we’ll get together and celebrate the common grace that is Pei Wei and talk about life, Theology, and gospel implications on ministry models and life in general. Inevitably, during these modern day communion meals (yes, Pei Wei is that good), our conversation will typically focus on either one of us, with some smaller parts on the other. And, now that I think about it, it always seems to be about the other person the next time we get together. During one of these conversations, I told Mike about a decision I made, and he asked me a question in response to what I told him. The caveat, here, was that he said that whatever answer I gave him, he was going to have to say “harsh friend words” to me. It was about then that I felt that “oh, crap” feeling begin to form in my gut.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
I had that feeling because I know two things about Mike: 1) Mike is my friend, and 2) Mike knows the gospel. I’m incredibly glad for both of these things. Yet, usually when Mike feels that he needs to have “harsh friend words” with a person, he’s usually right. So, I answered his question, and he did a good job of delivering a knockout punch. He challenged me on my thinking about this issue, and simply by speaking truth, pointed out where my motivations didn’t line up with the gospel.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
One of the reasons why Mike and I remain friends after these type of conversations is because I know his heart. His heart is to see God glorified in general, in his life, and in my life. And Mike knows that is my heart also, as much as the Spirit has enabled me. So, when Mike asks tough questions that make me look at aspects of my heart that sometimes I don’t want to look at, instead of heading for the hills and hiding, I remember that Mike is trying to show me where this piece of my heart doesn’t line up with the rest of my heart, and wants to bring glory to myself instead of King Jesus. He isn’t using truth like a baseball bat trying to beat me down; he’s using truth like a scalpel trying to help cut away pieces of my heart that are prone to idolatry. Or, I should say the Holy Spirit through Mike is doing this, but I know this is Mike’s desire even if it’s the Spirit doing the actual work.
Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
What makes these conversations memorable, and enjoyable, isn’t the awesome food or even the hanging out with a friend. It’s that Mike, like so many of my other friends, is willing to take the time to listen to my crazy ramblings and expend the energy to offer deep, Theological, gospel-driven counsel that presses me to conform to the image of Christ.
The hard part is for those of us who receive counsel like this to actually listen. Usually, we listen and nod our heads to make the person go away, but we don’t let the truth of their words pierce our heart and cause real change.
I would challenge you, if you have a friend who is willing to risk friendship to be a good friend, don’t take it lightly. Listen, pray, and let truth change your heart.