The past couple of days have been harrowing as my bones and joints hurt. I don’t know if this is a side effect from my Humira injection Tuesday, or if this is just a novel approach my body is taking to share the joys that are chronic pain. Nevertheless, there are more important things in life than my discomfort. I have spent a lot of time thinking about friendships that I have, or at least perceive I have, and it appears that there are essentially two types of friends. There are those that are genuinely concerned about others (including you and your well-being) and then there are those that are wrapped up in their own little worlds that they cannot be bothered with anything other than their pity party. (I have not forgotten that I have my fair share of pity parties due to my chronic pain. I even had a perpetual pity party once.)
There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, my Christian friends take the time to ask how I’m feeling. They have genuine concern for my health and show concern for others. Most of the time I don’t feel like talking about my ailments as I already have to endure them. I don’t care to suffer them again by discussing them. These are the friends I prefer to surround myself with, though. Who wants to surround themselves with a narcissistic man-child who is financially secure, yet cries himself to sleep because he cannot have his way. (I’m not trying to sound mean, I just have a tendency to be more blunt than usual when I’m in excruciating pain).
This particular friend has no foundational concept of right and wrong as I explored earlier. It’s more of a lack of conviction because he cannot take a stand on any point either out of fear of being wrong or out of hurting someone’s feelings. I also wrote about him in the Fallacy Factory because I was amused by the sheer number fallacies he invoked to support his reasons for discounting Christianity. Everyone has a right to reject Jesus Christ, just reject Him with a well-thought reason instead of rehashed fallacies you read on some half-baked atheist website.
I’m interested in his change in demeanor as I changed from a profane heathen to a Christian. We’ve probably been friends a dozen years or so, and in the years of my binge drinking and erratic behavior as a disc jockey, we got along pretty well. He even attended my wedding in some perfunctory capacity. I’ve always known him as one of the biggest God haters I ever met as he went out of his way to be offensive to anyone with any Christian sensibilities. At that point in my life, I think I just laughed. The subject matter isn’t what was funny, it was the reaction. He could blaspheme God with as much enthusiasm as he could stomp around like a five year old after a pimple-faced teenager forgot to super size his order at the drive thru.
These past five years since my conversion, I have seen a conversion of sorts in him as well. There was the time he “tried” Christianity. I don’t even know what that means. You repent of your sins, you put your trust in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit “will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 ESV) This is not something that you put on like a pair of skinny jeans. Since Christianity was unsuccessful, he has embraced post-modernism wholeheartedly, and all paths lead you to the Supreme Being (a very impersonal name which seems to assail the very personal nature of God). Let me rephrase, “All paths lead to the same place, but not YHWH, or the God of the Bible, because I have read a couple of chapters and found some discrepancies that I refuse to investigate further to see if these are just apparent inconsistencies, or they are actual proof that the Bible is errant.” In short, he has come full circle. He still rejects the one true God.
I think what bothers me is that I poured my life into him and another friend for three years so that hopefully they would come to know the truth of Jesus Christ. This friend spent every opportunity heaping abuse, and even threatened to murder my pastor because I offered to set up a meeting so he could have some of his questions answered. Looking back, it’s quite comical as he was ashamed of his behavior, but he always phrased his apologies as non-apologies.
He would say things like, “Well, things got out of hand and I said things that I shouldn’t have.” Never a simple, “I’m sorry.” It is always a rationalization, and the instant you think you might get to the moment where the friendship can heal, the conversation is deflected. I wonder how my wife would react if I told her some rationalization. When I’m wrong, there is only one thing that can be said: “I’m sorry.”
My other friend that I have spent a lot of time with is moving cross country today. I’m glad for him that he found a new job that pays better. That was the reason I was given. Normally, he would wax poetically about how this new job would help him express himself better, or how he will not have to sell out his convictions, or maybe the perks are better. This time, the pay is better. I have seen him traverse the country in pursuit of more money, more freedom, just more of something. Through my chronic pain, I have been trying to demonstrate that there is more to life than money, or fame, or [insert idol here]. He never even said he was moving for happiness. Only money. We’ve been friends for almost seventeen years and he didn’t have time for a quick lunch before he left. Packing the U-Haul wasn’t something that thrust itself upon him, either. He accepted the job two weeks ago.
I have a number of close friends, but God has burdened my heart with these two jokers. I have changed so much, I don’t think they even like me anymore. Nor do I care. My job isn’t to affirm their lifestyles or faulty belief systems, or to tell them how awesome they are when they do things that are an affront to God. My job is to be salt and light. John MacArthur said, “The world may hate us and persecute us, but the world is absolutely dependent on us being the influence and the verbal manifestation of the Gospel of God.”
I’m reminded of Luke 6:22, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” Maybe their feelings aren’t so caustic. Well, maybe one has destructive feelings with the whole pastor-murder thing. In any event, God still has not lifted my burden of unending physical pain, and He may not free me from these burdens, either. After all, “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 ESV) That includes me.
CC image courtesy of Itamar Grinberg on Flickr.