What does authentic friendship look like? Anyone who says the Christian life is unadventurous hasn’t hung out much with the Apostle Paul. You can feel the tension rising as he goes to bat for the things Jesus has done in his life. You can hear him momentarily go off-roading to defend the message of the Gospel and pursue those whom he loves. Let’s not forget–Christianity is not meant to be a bunch of “do’s and don’t’s”–it’s meant to be relational!
Spiritual, but not Christlike
The false teachers of this day were masquerading as image-bearers of Jesus. They were Christian-fakers. Talk the talk, but not walk the walk. “Spiritual”…but not Christlike. They had head knowledge…but not the heart. Take a closer look at how Paul describes them:
You have such admirable tolerance for impostors who rob your freedom, rip you off, steal you blind, put you down—even slap your face! I shouldn’t admit it to you, but our stomachs aren’t strong enough to tolerate that kind of stuff (v.20–MSG).”
From a distance, it appears obvious that these leaders did not have the best interest of others in mind. They were selfish and wrongly motivated. However, it is so easy to get entangled with others (even in the church) who persuasively influence you or impact your thinking. When you are looking for a place to belong and people to accept you…it is surprising what you will put up with. It may take some personal introspection to examine your friendships and relationships to determine whether or not they are Christ-centered.
Characteristics of Real Friendships
What are the characteristics of a godly leader, mentor, or friend? Ask yourself…
- What word fits best to describe their character: arrogance or humility?
- Do they tear you down, or build you up?
- When they talk, do they put you in your place? Or do you consider them a place of refuge and comfort?
- Do they brag about their self-accomplishments? Or, their weakness that was made strong in Jesus?
- Are they in a rush to get you out the door? Or are they patient with you, filled with grace?
- Do they make every problem “your” problem? Or, do you find them relatable and human, willing to put themselves in your shoes?
- Above everything else, do they point you to Jesus?
Paul was a committed leader who was willing to endure incredible hardship and suffering to pursue the heart of the ones he loved. He leveraged his talents, abilities, knowledge, lineage, education, and career to steer the believers back to Jesus. We need more people like this today! People who are willing to take risks for others. Humbly take a stand, regardless of the fallout. Fearless faith-walkers to defend the truth.
Why is it necessary to stand up for the truth? Why do we find it so difficult to do so?