The Beauty of Being Unfriended

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

True friends are willing to get “unfriended.” You see, friends don’t let friends violate God’s law without saying something. An old Jewish proverbs says, “A friend is someone who warns you.” We desperately need a revival of those kinds of accountable relationships today, because many of our friends are being lured into dangerous living by the deceitfulness of sin—and while there are plenty of people to cheer them on, few are willing to warn them. For the love of God, and for the right reasons, quit being afraid of being unfriended!

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 1:5-10

About that time David’s son Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, began boasting, “I will make myself king.” So he provided himself with chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him… Adonijah took Joab son of Zeruiah and Abiathar the priest into his confidence, and they agreed to help him become king. But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and David’s personal bodyguard refused to support Adonijah. Adonijah went to the Stone of Zoheleth near the spring of En-rogel, where he sacrificed sheep, cattle, and fattened calves. He invited all his brothers—the other sons of King David—and all the royal officials of Judah. But he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the king’s bodyguard or his brother Solomon.

Nathan, Benaiah and Solomon got unfriended! They were blackballed, excluded from the group, not invited to the party. And that was okay. In fact, they wore their unpopularity like a badge of honor. And it was just that—a badge of honor—because to go along with Adonijah’s plan would have been to bless what God was about to curse.

Adonijah was King David’s son. He was popular, had movie star looks, and the popular support of both high-ranking officials and run of the mill citizens.

Now Adonijah’s father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, “Why are you doing that?” Adonijah had been born next after Absalom, and he was very handsome. (1 Kings 1:6)

He was the obvious choice to replace the aging David. Worst of all, Adonijah believed his own press, and came up with a shameless scheme to promote himself. And he had plenty of cheerleaders to encourage him along the way.

Epic fail! In one of the biggest upsets in the history of elections, the newly self-minted “king” was immediately dethroned when David learned of his son’s rebellion and instead coronated the rightful replacement to the throne, Solomon. And the “unfirended” ones, Nathan, Benaiah and Solomon, were now looking pretty good, while those who had supported Adonijah—some pretty powerful people—were now looking pretty foolish. As a matter of fact, those who cheered him on in his sin now shared in his sin—an enduring lesson we ought to take to heart.

We worry too much about getting friends—and keeping them. Not that friends are unimportant, but in this day of social media where being “friended” is everything, we have begun to worship unthinkingly at the altar of popularity. We stress over what people might think of us, of being labeled as a hater, and Lord forbid, of being “unfriended.”

And all the while, many of our so-called friends are steering their lives right into a ditch, but we don’t say anything to warn them off. A person with whom we are connected posts photos of themselves engaged in questionable behavior, or uses vile language or proudly announces they are now in a lifestyle that has been declared sin in the immutable Word of God, and we say nothing. In fact, some who know better will actually fawn all over them with “I am so proud of you” or “you gotta be true to who you are,” which is, in reality, tacit approval of our friend’s sin.

Friends don’t let friends violate God’s law without saying something. An old Jewish proverb says, “A friend is someone who warns you.” We desperately need a revival of that kind of true friendship today, because many of our friends, cheered on by the crowd, are being lured into dangerous living by the deceitfulness of sin.

Now I am not promoting that you go out of your way to be a buzz-kill, but there is a point when you need to say something. You need to risk being unpopular, of being labeled, or being “unfriended.” I am not suggesting you do that publically. Watch your motives. Go in love—and in private. But for the love of God, be a friend.

True friends are willing to be “unfriended.”

Going Deeper With God: Ask the Lord to help you love enough to confront your friends lovingly when they are drifting into behavior that God cannot bless. Remember, a friend is someone who warns you.

What’s Your P.I.P. — Your Personal Improvement Plan?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Do you currently have anyone in your life sharpening you? Do you have people on your Personal Development Team? Are there those who are willing to call you out in order to call you up? The Bible teaches that if you are going to win at life, if you are going to grow into Christ-like character, and if you are going to be a person of impact, it will not take place apart from the help of others—close friends that God will use to sharpen you.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Chronicles 27:32-34

Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a wise counselor to the king, a man of great insight, and a scribe. Jehiel the Hacmonite was responsible for teaching the king’s sons. Ahithophel was the royal adviser. Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend. Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoiada son of Benaiah and by Abiathar. Joab was commander of the king’s army.

Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play major league baseball. And he paid a heavy price for breaking the color barrier. He faced hatred everywhere he played; fastballs at his head; runners sliding into second base with their spikes up; racial slurs would be hurled from the opposing dugouts as well as the crowds.

One day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to abuse him and Jackie just stood there at second base, humiliated. Then something dramatic happened. A southern white man who played shortstop, Pee Wee Reese, came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that one act of friendship, that arm around his shoulder saved his career. That’s a true friend!

That reminds me of the definition Henry Durbanville gave of a true friend. He said, “A friend is the first person who comes in when the whole world goes out.”

Friendship is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. You and I were not meant to do life alone. God has woven into the very fabric of who we are the need for community, to belong to a family. He has designed us so that we would thrive in relationship with others. That is why Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 famously says,

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

The Bible definitely calls us to choose friends who will in turn call out the best in us and challenge us to be all that God wants us to be—who will serve, if you will, on our Personal Development Team. We are told in one of the most famous verses on friendship, Proverbs 27:17 (Message),

“You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.”

King David surrounded himself with people like that—Jonathan counseled him, Jehiel helped him with his family, Hushai was his close friend, Ahithophel (before he messed up) was his political advisor, Jehoiada provided a priestly influence and Joab protected him. These men helped David become and stay great!

Do you have anyone in your life sharpening you right now? Do you have people on your Personal Development Team? The Bible says you need people like that. If you are gong to win at life, if you are going to grow into the character of Christ, it will not take place apart from people—close friends that God will use to sharpen you.

I hope you have someone like that, or will get someone like that, because there’s not a one of us who should go through life without that kind of friend.

Going Deeper With God: Perhaps you would say, “But I can’t seem to find friends like you’ve described, so where do I begin?” First, you are not alone in your experience. Many people would say the same, so don’t feel that you are not worthy of close friends. Second, ask God. He made you for friendships, so he can provide them. Seriously, just ask and keep asking, because I just happen to believe that God still answers prayer. And third, make sure you are the kind of friend to others that you would want to have. As someone has humorously but correctly said, “the best vitamin for friendships is B-1.”

Let Cooler Heads Prevail

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God created us with a high capacity for passion, and that’s a wonderful thing. Much of the good that has been accomplished in the world began in passion. But while passion is a powerful spring, it’s a horrible regulator, and when it’s untempered, can do much harm. So how do you temper your passion? Internal and external controls—develop the fruit of self-control, but also give cool-headed friends access to the kill switch of your passion for those moments when your self-control get wobbly.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 25:10-13

“Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” So David’s young men returned and told him what Nabal had said. “Get your swords!” was David’s reply as he strapped on his own. Then 400 men started off with David to kill Nabal.

David heart was on fire with passion for God—he was characteristically a man after God’s own heart. But at times, David’s heart was on fire with passion for other things, too. That got David into trouble on more than one occasion. 1 Samuel 25 is one of those occasions.

Nabal, a man whose name meant “fool,” foolishly refused to share provision with David and his men. David had politely requested it, and it would have been customary for Nabal to graciously grant such a request since David’s small army had afforded Nabal and his ranching operation protection from thieves and marauders that harassed the locals. Not only did Nabal refuse, he insulted David to the men who had made the request. When they reported back to David what this fool had said, David’s knee-jerk response was, “strap ‘em on boys, we going to make Nabal pay up—with his life.”

Now it just so happened that this brutish man, Nabal, had a lovely and wise wife, Abigail. Sensing the looming disaster, she skillfully intervenes—intercedes really—with David and averts the death of her husband and destruction of all that he owned. However, when Nabal found out what his wife had done, rather than react with gratitude, he went into such a rage that he had a stroke or a heart attack, or something really bad, and died!

Among the many streams of life application from which we might drink in this story, the one I want to call to you attention is David’s unregulated passion. Let it stand as a warning to us that when we let anger rule our emotions, we are in danger of allowing it to ruin our lives. Anger almost ruined David’s life on this occasion—had he followed through on it, he would have been guilty of murder.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that passion is a powerful spring, but a bad regulator. It will get you motivated, but don’t depend on it to manage you. David’s passion got away from him—he let it regulate his emotions—and it led him to the brink of doing something really dumb.

Which, by the way, I think, is why we love David so much—he was so thoroughly human. In David, we don’t get the polished ideal to which we aspire but never attain, we get a rough-edged reality in a meandering journey of spiritual transformation. And we can relate to a guy like that. You’ve got to love a guy who’s capable of unmitigated dumbness. But you certainly don’t want to follow his dumb ways. In this moment, David was full of passion but empty of God—in an instant, he’s become a fool. He was on the verge of becoming Saul.

And that is where Abigail comes in. She steps in and puts David in touch again with the beauty of God as David had done for Saul in the cave (1 Samuel 24:16-21). Through Abigail, David realized who he was, he recognized what he was about to do, and he remembered what his life was destined for. Thankfully, on that day, cooler heads prevailed.

God created us with a high capacity for passion, and that is a wonderful thing. Much of the good that has been accomplished in the world began in passion. But, as Emerson noted, while passion is a powerful spring, it is a horrible regulator, and when it is untempered, can do much harm. How do we temper our passion? Internal and external controls—we must develop the fruit of self-control internally then empower cool-headed friends externally and give them access to the kill switch of passion.

Make sure to cultivate a cool head. But on the occasion when emotions get the best of you and you shift into hothead, make sure you check in with your Abigail.
Without exception and at all times, let cooler heads prevail.

Going Deeper With God: Who is your “Abigail?” Believe, you need one, and so do I!