Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Uncommon Friend: Part 2

The Difference between Family and Friends

It is a curious thought. Why did God create us to have friends? It is obvious that our God is a relational God.  Think back to Genesis. God created Adam and established his desire for relationship between God and man. Then he created Eve, and established the marital relationship between man and woman. Then through the birth of Cain and Abel, the first family relationships began (isn’t it comforting to know families have been dysfunctional from the start!) From that point, hundreds of years go by, and family relationships are the only ones mentioned. Of course, to build an entire human race from one couple, everyone was family (Insert inappropriate joke about whatever state you choose). The first time any kind of partnership is mentioned is between Abram and Lot, his nephew. Military alliances, sibling pairings, servant/master relationships are mentioned, but it isn’t until Genesis 41 that we see the first non-familial friendship strike up. Our first biblical example of friendship is between Pharaoh and Joseph, a man sold into slavery by his brothers. In Genesis 41:51, we learn that Joseph’s family was so bad that he named his firstborn a name that specifically meant how much trouble his family was! God knew that the families in which He placed us were not enough to mold us into the people He wants us to be.  For most of us, our families, aside from occasional disagreements and personality differences, provide a great deal of love and support. For some, you may have found your best friend in a mom, a sister, or a brother. Yet God still desires friendship for us beyond the boundaries of our homes and he has great purpose for it in our lives.
The biggest difference between family and friends is the choice factor. Family is a forced relationship. Except for extreme cases, you will be in relationship with your family members for a lifetime—good or bad. I’ll never forget going with my husband’s grandfather to a nursing home several years ago to visit his very elderly sister. There was so much joy between the two siblings, even after years of not seeing each other and after dementia had taken its toll. On the other hand, we have all seen the families that seem to walk out of a movie. Yes, there are Cousin Eddies, Bart Simpsons, and Michael Lohans everywhere and we are obligated to attend holiday dinners, weddings, funerals, and family reunions with them.
 Even in our marriages, our spouse cannot solely provide us with all the experiences and support we will need to live a Godly life, where we aim to follow God’s will. After nine years of marriage, I can honestly say that my husband is my best friend, although that has not always been the case. He has been there for me and with me through all the good and bad in my life since I was 20 years old and he has been ever faithful.  The truth is that he is one man, with one personality, one set of traits, one history of knowledge gained, one lifetime of experiences, and one testimony of God’s grace. In order for us to make wise decisions, walk the righteous path, and love people the way we should, we need to have a wealth of resources that includes the knowledge, experiences, testimonies, successes, failures, and admirable characteristics traits of many people. Also, with divorce so common, it’s easy to forget that marriage is supposed to last a lifetime. If I have a bad day, week, or year, I know that George will still be there for me. He is legally, financially, and spiritually obligated to maintain a relationship with me until death do us part.
Friends are different. You get to choose your friendships. You get to choose how many friends you have, what type of friends you have, and even how long your friendships last.  With so much freedom, it is important that we take some time to consider our own beliefs on friendship, what our culture dictates our friendships be like, and what the bible says about friendship. Unfortunately, there is great conflict between these in our everyday lives, leading to undue stress and at times, loneliness. By examining God’s reasons for friendship, we can refocus our own desires and expectations for our current and future friendships. We will see very practical ways that we can build relationships with those around us, all while allowing ourselves to be molded into who God purposed us to be.
To be continued….

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