“Iron Sharpening Iron”?

Will you love Jesus more
When we go our different ways?
When this moment is a memory

Will you remember His face?
Will you look back and realize
You sensed His love more than you did before?

I pray for nothing less
Than for you to love Jesus more
-Phillips, Craig & Dean
 

Many of you have probably heard of the popular Christian blog by Jon Acuff called Stuff Christians Like – where he humorously and good-naturedly pokes fun at certain things that Christians like to do or say.  I’ve noticed one particular thing of late that I’ve personally had a tendency to do which might not be such a good thing – so allow me to submit Stuff Christians Like #865: Compartmentalizing Things Into “Spiritual” vs. “Non-Spiritual.”



For example:



Spiritual Things:
-going to church on Sundays
-spending time in prayer with God
-serving in ministry

Non-Spiritual Things:

-hanging out with friends
-eating dinner
-going to work

Did you know that there is no Hebrew word for “spiritual”?  I didn’t, until I watched a video a few years ago by preacher Rob Bell entitled Everything is Spiritual.  Why is that?  How come there was no Hebrew word for “spiritual”?  That’s kinda weird… weren’t the creators of this language supposed to be the people of God?  Why would they not include such an important word in their vocabulary?  See, to the ancient Hebrews, to label something as “spiritual” would imply that there are other things that would not be considered “spiritual.”  For them, to say that certain aspects of life were not God-centered and therefore “spiritual” was considered blasphemous.  God IS everything and is IN everything, and He created us as spiritual beings – so EVERYTHING is spiritual… which would include our friendships.



“Well, of course, Amy.  Of COURSE our friendships are spiritual!  I mean, we go to church together and to transitions together.  We’re Christians!  And outside of church, we make sure that the time we spend together is pleasing to the Lord.  We don’t go see R-rated movies or go clubbing – we just hang out and play games and go out to dinner and stuff.”

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17

Forgive me if this statement sounds harsh… but at what point did we (and I can put myself at the front of this list) reduce God-ordained friendship to a self-centered enjoyment of watered-down and Christianized worldliness?  At what point did we start to think that God’s plan for our friendships was for just us to avoid sin when we “chilled”… and, to be honest, some of us even struggle with that!  Do we find that in the Bible anywhere?  Do we see any Biblical stories that go like this:

So David and Jonathan met regularly each week to have a good time.  They were good little God-followers and didn’t go to the Caananite festivals that offered children up as sacrifices – by no means!  Instead, they sat and played Scrabble and talked about sheep.

How about this one?



Paul and Silas were homies.  They spent their days chillin’ at Paul’s house, playing “Grand Theft Chariot” and talking about the cute girls that Paul had come across during his second missionary journey.




No!  They were working for the Lord, evangelizing, praying, talking about the things of God.  They were sharpening one another in the faith!  The focus of their friendships was not themselves – in fact, it wasn’t even the other person in the friendship.  The number one focus of the friendship was God.  Most of us would say that our friendships are God-centered… but are they?  Well, let’s check the fruit.  Do we leave our gatherings with friends with a deeper passion for Jesus?  Do we feel so much more encouraged and emboldened in the Lord after we get together with our buddies?  What do our conversations sound like?



I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me over the years and voiced their frustrations about the superficiality of the majority of their friendships.  Do we even know our friends?  Do we know our friends’ testimonies and what the Lord has brought them through?  Some of us have known our friends for years and we still don’t know how they came to Christ or couldn’t list anything that they need prayer about.  I’m not talking about just acquaintances – I’m talking about those that we consider close friends.  Do we know how they are struggling right now… and are we doing anything about it?  Are we even praying for them?



Now, before you stop reading thinking that I’m going off the deep end here… here’s what I’m NOT saying.  I’m NOT saying that we can never watch a movie with our friends or go out to dinner or talk about work – of course not.  However, I AM saying that even those things can be Christ-centered.  If we’re going to talk about work – how about we pray about it when we’re done?  If we’re going to hang out, let’s spend some time talking about things that actually have meaning!  A couple of my friends told me about a time when they went out to dinner some weeks ago and were talking about the things of God, and a man came right over to them and started asking questions about the faith.  How amazing!  Somehow some of us have adopted (consciously or unconsciously) a mentality that our enjoyment of life is God’s primary goal and our “right.”  To that, I would ask that we all check out the lives of those living in the New Testament.  Check out Paul’s “enjoyment” of his life.  He comes to give life more abundantly, yes, but do we really think that hanging out idly and spending time doing things that keep us spiritually neutral is the kind of abundant life that He came for?  When’s the last time we got together with our friends just to seek the Lord in prayer or to go serve or evangelize?  Are we pressing in to the kingdom of God with our friends?  Are we continually and consistently challenging them, correcting them, exhorting them, sharing our lives with them?  Are we confessing our sins to them, as God commands us in James 5:16?  Are we sharpening them and being sharpened by them?  And if we’re not… then what’s the point of having them?



Yes… EVERYTHING is spiritual, and that includes our friendships.  Friendships are a gift from the Lord – but His gifts are not toys.  They have a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify His name and to be “used” selflessly – not simply for our own enjoyment.  I absolutely love this song by Phillips, Craig & Dean – and it’s challenged me to consider each of my Christian friendships in light of these lyrics.  My desire is for my friends to be able to say “YES” when they ask themselves if my friendship with them fits these lyrics.  May the Lord help us to see HIS purposes for our friendships with other believers… and may we be willing to surrender our friendships to Him so that He can mold them into that which makes Him smile and brings Him glory.

Will you love Jesus more
When we go our different ways?
When this moment is a memory
Will you remember His face?
Will you look back and realize
You sensed His love more than you did before?
I pray for nothing less
Than for you to love Jesus more.
 
Amy is currently the Director of Elementary BTKIDS at the Brooklyn Tabernacle and also serves with the transitions Young Adult ministry.  She specializes in getting herself into ridiculous situations such as getting locked in the girls' bathroom for an hour when she was supposed to be running a service.  One day, she'd love to visit South Africa or New Zealand and also go to the Olympics.  To read more about her adventures, you can check out stillonthewheel.blogspot.com and foolishthingsministries.blogspot.com.  Follow her on Twitter @amezy!