SIMPLE TRUTH: At least one true friend needed

Published 10:46 am Monday, June 3, 2013

By Charles Christmas

Do you recognize the following quotes: “A friend loves at all times;” “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother;” “it is better to have a friend nearby than a (blood) brother far away;” “greater love has no person than this: that a person lay down his life for a friend?” Each is a Bible quote relating to a true friend.

Every person needs a few good friends, but you need at least one true and trusted friend. We observe this to be a reality in the life and example of Jesus. He probably had scores of friends among the multitudes. Then he had “the seventy.” A smaller group of friends were “the twelve disciples.” But then he had “the three.” Peter, James and John were his close three friends. It was only with these three friends that he felt he could share the most intimate and secret burdens and feelings of his heart and mind. It was only these three whom he requested to be with him in the agony of the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. The Bible says he began to be deeply distressed ad troubled. He confided to these three: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and stay awake with me.” He will soon reveal that he needed at least one trusted and dependable friend. He returned from agonizing prayer and found “the three” asleep. He spoke, not to the three, but to Simon Peter saying, “Simon, could you not watch with me one hour?” In other words, he was saying, “Peter, I needed at least one faithful friend!”

I have had the security of a faithful friend. At one o’clock on a Saturday night, I picked up my phone in distress and made a call. I said, “Bill, Louise is having a miscarriage. I’ve got to rush her to the hospital in Sylacauga. Come stay with my two kids the rest of the night.” I knew Bill Parret, my across-the-street neighbor, had far rather come than not to, and he and his wife would find joy in being our servant. On another occasion, I picked up the phone, and on long distance, I said, “Wylline, I need help. Because of her back surgery, Louise must have some help so that I can work.” Her reply, “Ernest I will drop everything and come.” I knew they would joyfully and gladly make any sacrifice possible to help us.

And then there was Joe Harris. The depth of his friendship was not revealed in the number of times he helped me relax and have pleasure playing golf. It was in the fact that I, a very introvert personality, could spend long periods of time with him and have the freedom of not having to say a word. I remember R. E. Claborn. When our moving van arrived at our new residence in Forestdale, he was there with his set of tools. Anything from hanging pictures to installing the mailbox, connecting appliances, hauling off the leaves and even replacing the garage door when Louise backed through it: no problem! And such faithful friendship didn’t end when we moved across town eight years later. Then there’s Ronnie. He was there when Louise had a five-hour surgery. He mowed the grass while I stayed by her bedside for forty-one days, was with me at the emergency room the day when she suffered the massive brain hemorrhage, and yes, the next day when she made her exodus into the arms of Jesus, he was standing at the foot of her bed, near me and my two precious daughters.

We need friends: tight-lipped, available, responsive, nonjudgmental, caring, practical and supportive. The Bible says that if we are to have a friend, we must be a friend. We must choose to be a friend and to have a friend.

Any friend will have limitations. Jesus Christ is the incomparable friend. The hymn says, “No one ever cares like Jesus. He’s a friend beyond compare.” He does not desire to be a substitute for human friends, but he does desire to be your friend, and he desires that you be his friend. A true friendship with Jesus can begin now, because he is known as “a friend of sinners” like you and me. He is a forgiving friend. He will begin a friendship by accepting you where, and as, you are; he will love you unconditionally. He alone will be the unfailing companion when death, divorce, separation, the military, etc. takes your human friend from you. His commitment to you is final: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Be a friend. Ask God for a friend. Cultivate friendships. Thank God for friends of the past and the present.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.