Lesson 7 -- fourth quarter 2000
October 15, 2000
© Copyright 2000, Christian Light Publications
How shall we mourn the death of a friend?
Wanted: Close Friends
She was a childhood friend, almost like a sister. We shared plenty of good times together. She died abruptly...in a fit of anger and depression...by drinking rat poison. She didn't intend to die and didn't want to die, but she overdid it. I was stunned. I mourned my loss -- a friend, gone forever. Even more so, I mourned her loss -- she was an unbeliever.
She was an adulthood friend, almost old enough to be my aunt. We had our periodic differences, but she was my strong supporter and encourager, especially in school and church life. She died gradually...but victoriously...one more victim of cancer. I expected her death, but it was still hard to take. I mourned my loss -- a friend and supporter, gone for the rest of this life. Even more so, I exulted in her gain -- she died a Christian.
How we mourn the death of a friend depends so much on their spiritual condition. If our friend died an unbeliever, our mourning for their loss is frequently compounded by our own sense of failure in bringing them to the Lord. Those friends we mourn without hope. It seems that the death of a non-Christian friend ought to recharge our zeal to win our living non-Christian friends to Christ.
If our friend died a Christian, our mourning for our loss is eased by our peace and joy in their commitment to the Lord. Such friends we mourn with hope and assurance. We have the assurance that they are with the Lord, and we hold out hope of seeing them again. It seems that the death of a Christian friend would motivate us to win others to Christ.
"After six years away, we aren't sure we want to return to our home congregation. The close friends we had there have all left." Though I could understand the comment and sentiment well, and could even empathize with it, I was still cut. You see, I was one of those who was still in their home congregation. Their feelings left me feeling out in the cold. It seemed I didn't count as a friend or even as a potential friend.
"I hope you don't decide to leave. If you do, we will have no real friends left here." The comment warmed my heart at the same time it made my heart sink. It seemed that I had allowed our good friendship to warp our friends socially. It seemed that in their estimation, no one else counted as a friend or even as a potential friend.
Have our congregations turned into ice cube trays with the cubes representing individual friendships that have little in common with each other? I hope not! Actually, I'm sure that they haven't, but the previous two paragraphs ought to serve as a warning to us. We Christians must be experts at developing new friendships, even close friendships, especially within our local congregations!
Three of my good friends left. One went to the Caribbean, another to Latin America, and the other to the world. Sometimes I feel as though I have good friends at church, but no more real confidants. The strange thing is, I can so easily blame the church. You know, it just isn't as warm and friendly as it used to be. Indeed. If I am part of the church and I am not establishing new close friendships, then, yes, the church isn't as warm and friendly as it used to be. And guess who's partly to blame! Me!
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