What Price Friendship?

“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”
Philippians 1:21

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A writer friend of mine recently published a book that basically helps one deal with toxic friendships.* The identity of these friendships is based on the seven sins God hates.

“There are six things the LORD hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.” Proverbs 6:16-18

This subject sparked some lively conversations last weekend. Toxic friendships are those which threaten to use, control, diminish, and/or defeat us in some way. (Reminds me of the ‘thief’ who doesn’t come for the good of the sheep, but comes to steal, kill and destroy—John 10:10.)

As I thought about my own history of having—and being—friends, the Lord kept bringing Philippians 1:21 to mind. Living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.

Paul wrote that, so I look to him as my example (knowing that he followed Christ). To be sure, he wasn’t referring to friendships when God dictated that thought to him. He was talking about having expended his life for Christ and his readiness to die and be with him. But he knew it was better for him to stay alive and encourage the believers in a very dark time.

At this point Paul had been a follower of Christ for almost thirty years. He was an old man. He’d followed Christ to “the wilderness school of discipleship.” The following years he’d ministered with Barnabas, John Mark, Silas, Timothy, Luke, Priscilla and Aquila, among so many unnamed others. He’d been beaten and imprisoned—and there was more of the same to come.

How did he model relationships? He prayed and interceded for them (Philippians 1:4), encouraged them (verse 6), loved on them (verse 8), and admonished them in the way of right living (verse 10-11). He praised God for using his circumstances—good or bad—to further the gospel.

He knew he followed a path that risked death, yet he was confident by living for Christ he would not be ashamed of the gospel. His aim, whether he lived or died, was to bring honor to Jesus Christ.

I, too, seek to be a follower of Jesus and bring him honor. What does this mean for me?

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Turn from my selfish ways…give up trying to control relationships and circumstances in favor of bringing honor to Jesus. I need Jesus to be my intimate friend. When he is enough for me, when he meets my need for close friendship, then I can be the kind of friend Paul was—an encourager.

In a later chapter Paul admonishes the believers to humble themselves and think of others as better than themselves. He’s not advocating being a doormat. Our example is Jesus, who humbled himself by going to the cross. He wasn’t mankind’s doormat. He did it for a purpose—the joy of offering salvation to you and me.

God has a purpose he yearns to fulfill in each of us. It takes dying to self and living for Jesus.

by Marilyn Allison

*The Seven Deadly Friendships”
by Mary DeMuth