You know how you talk when just blabbing with a friend? I was.
Good friends let you speak without needing translation just as you do them. Right? You’re talking a mile a minute with gusts up to—well, you get it. I was just talking – just talking – yet something I said, or more correct, the way in which I said it, caused my friend to stop and observe my words.
I know you get this. You get tired of things being done the way they are, fed up with being treated a certain way just because you happen to be a Christian and will not immediately return fire. You see and hear it in the news every day–good, decent people being unfairly hammered and maltreated publicly, with the perpetrators knowing those good, decent people will likely take it on the chin – again – and not speak up until much damage has been done to their reputations and families. Even careers.
So you’re talking with a good friend and say something a little too tart, too stingey, too abrupt. What should a good friend do in response?
Mine gently mirrored my over-the-top words to me, letting me hear them back.
It stunned and stopped me. Literally. I quit talking and began thinking.
Being unkind, abrupt and harsh is never okay. Whether a Christian or not, it’s never ‘okay’ to skewer someone else with rough, unleashed, snapping and biting comments. I’d just been verbally freewheeling, into the normal thrust-and-parry of friendly banter.
Except it had become unfriendly.
Reading this morning in Jude’s little letter, I was reminded of this mirrored encounter with a friend good enough and close enough to be okay with showing me myself.
Jude says there’s a contrast between the perps of the world and we who present ourselves as Christians – Christ-followers. Remember me saying whenever you hear the word, ‘But’, it always has the effect of jerking up your emergency brake?
“But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ.”
Hm. Praying is using words, and Jude says in contrast to a hideously malformed spiritual environment you and I are to assure the words coming from our mouths have the signature of the Holy Spirit – God – on them. He also says to stay right smack in the middle of living in, being and showing God’s brand of love, keeping our arms open and inviting, prepped to extend God’s mercy, not His justice–like my harsh words were unintentionally doing.
If you have a friend or two who love you enough to put a mirror to your words, thank God for them and be willing to listen. It won’t be easy. Admitting fault never is. But a friend good enough to be honest with you is one good enough to be offered a heartfelt apology.
And that, my friend, is what true friends are for.
© D. Dean Boone, June 2014