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Gospel Friendship

I’ve been aware, lately, of my tendency to view people a little too much through the eyes of Law. Having been on the other side of those kinds of lenses, I know what a helpless and crushing place it is to stand. Whatever the laws of the moment: Biblical, moral, social, cultural or simply personal preferences, they become the standard of measurement and the dominant filter for my interpretation of, and interaction with, the person in front of me.

On the other hand, there are people who only speak praises and view select individuals through eyes of mercy in every single scenario. This is surely my tendency with people I don’t know as well, because any negativity could threaten the future of the relationship. Or, it is what I do with people I want someone else to like as much as I do…any potential negative others may see I have to repaint to convince them that the person I like is only admirable in every way.

For a trivial and safe example, this is the paradigm through which we view politicians. If we like them, they can do no wrong, no matter what those opposition leaders may say. If we don’t like them, even things that may on the surface seem ok, we know really are part of a devious scheme to undermine and destroy the country as we know it. From strangers to family members, we swing from one extreme to the other, from only judgment to only praise, with no categories available in our thinking for both to be true. This is because apart from the Gospel, the two are incompatible.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26

It is this lense of the Gospel that makes friendship with those who really have begun to see the power of it the only kind of genuine, trustworthy friendship. These are friendships that can see my sin (the truth of the Law’s verdict against me) but also see the redemptive work of the person and work of Jesus in me. The people who only see my condemnation, aren’t seeing the grace that God has extended to me and by which He is in fact changing me. The people who only see my strengths are no more trustworthy because the praises, rather than being through the riches of what Jesus is doing and has done on my behalf, are too dependent upon not seeing the weakness by which His strength is made perfect. The friend who can help me see my heart’s idols because she simultaneously helps me to see that His grace and kindness illuminate and cover it, she is the treasured friend.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2:13-16

He is just and the one who justifies, may I not simply be satisfied with one or the other as I engage in relationships with strangers, friends and family. Oh may I begin not just to honestly acknowledge the broken places of others, but to see through the just accusation to the hope and relief of the person and work of Jesus on their behalf. None are more in need of His grace and none less in need of His mercy. Help me to love as He has first loved me, with honesty and extravagance. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Eph. 4:3

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