“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
As I return to my series on the difficulties that friendships present, I look no further than my own friendships to find inspiration for this topic. Last time we talked about being passionate about your friends. No, not romantically. We talked about the fact that the word passion literally means to suffer and I asked the question, is your friend worth suffering for? Tonight, I want to focus on an aspect of friendship that doesn’t always have a happy ending- in fact, it rarely does.
Many of us have been there before. We have a friend, usually a close friend or even a best friend, that has been there with us through thick and thin. They have laughed with you, cried with you, fought with you, and served as an accountability partner. I am reminded of the joke that says, a good friend will bail you out of jail, but a best friend will be sitting next you in the cell saying, “THAT WAS AWESOME!!!” While I do not condone breaking the law in the name of fun, it does illustrate my point- we’ve all had THAT friend. The friend that has way too much blackmail material on our lives, but was always classy enough to only divulge the minor embarrassing details around others. Then it happens- it’s gradual so you don’t notice it. In fact, you never really notice it until it feels like it’s too late and you never can put your finger on when it actually began. I’m talking about the day you look up and your friend is heading down a path in their life that you know you can’t follow.
What causes this split between two people that for years seemed completely inseparable? The simple answer is, we grow up. Over simplification? Eh maybe, but it points to the right source. Most of these friendships begin early in childhood, before we have a sense of the world around us, before we develop our personal political views, and before we shape our moral standards, whether based on biblical principles or family principles. These friendships develop outside the influence of these factors that drive our social world day in and day out. As we grow, we begin making very important decisions in our lives that will begin defining us as adults. These decisions include how we feel on key political issues such as gun control and abortion, to more spiritual concerns such as how we feel about the world’s definition of how to live vs. the Bible’s definition of how to live. We will begin polarizing ourselves and we will quickly begin finding ourselves on certain sides of certain issues. Many times, as this process takes shape, we will notice that more often than not, our close friend is on the other side of the issue. You begin to notice that you are starting to have less and less in common. That may lead to into mild resentment when you find yourself on opposing sides of an issue you are passionate about- say abortion for example. This process continues until the strain on the friendship is too much to maintain. You find yourself having more in common with someone else than your once close confidant.
How can we prevent this from happening? Well, mostly, we can’t. If you have taken a stance that you are going to follow the teachings of Christ and live your life to serve Him, then you aren’t going to be able to follow your friend down a destructive path. If they turn into an alcoholic, if they begin to dabble in drugs, or if they start trying to convince you there is no God (for example), then they are treading down a path that you can’t follow. The important step that you need to learn in order to cope with this is simple: you need to be ok with letting them go. Notice something, I DID NOT say that you should give up on them, but sometimes, you need to be able to look at them and say, “I’m not going. I can’t follow you down that road, and I won’t.” Many times, this is the final parting of the friendship, but sometimes God has a different plan, a plan that takes them out of your life until they can get their act together, so that they do not bring you down. Then, once they have righted the ship, God brings you back together.
Most of us will experience this in our lives. It’s not easy to cut someone loose, especially if they have been a big part of your life. However, we must understand that following Christ and living for Him comes with a cost, a sacrifice; leaving us with the very difficult decision of doing what is right instead of what is easy. In fact, Matthew chapter 7 reminds us of how difficult it is to do what is right and follow Christ, and just how few people are on that road. Matthew 7:13-14 says:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
There is an old expression that says I would follow you to hell and back. Well, my answer to that is simple. The One that I follow does not lead me to hell, but thanks to Him, I will follow Him to life eternal in Heaven. Sometimes, we have to cut loose those who are on the wide path, for it can only lead to our destruction. It isn’t easy and it isn’t what we want to do, but when faced with the choice I am reminded of Joshua 24:15
“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach