Who’s Your Friend?

Who’s your friend?  That’s a pretty easy question to answer.  Just as you read that, you probably thought of one, two, three names really quickly off the top of your head.  It’s an easy question. 

Back when I went to Evangel, we used to play this game called, “Who’s Your Friend,” when we had eaten an apple.  Once one of my buddies finished his apple (I can use the masculine here and not worry about gender neutrality because for some reason, in college, no girls wanted to hang out with my crew) he would say, “Apple Core!” To which one of us would reply “Baltimore,” not because we liked the city, but just because it rhymed with apple core.  He would then respond with, “Who’s your friend?”  Then one of us would say a name of someone we could see, and say that person’s name.  Why would we say this person’s name? Because then the one with the apple core would fling said core with all his might at the one just named.  All because that person was named as our friend.  This story has nothing to do with the rest of what I’m going to write.  I just thought you all would enjoy it!

In between what many label a mini-sermon in the book of James, the writer drops this little nugget basically asking, “Who’s your friend?”

James 4:4

4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

He is basically saying: Are you a friend of the world, or are you a friend of God?

James isn’t writing about trees and cities here, but rather a system of unhindered desires and arrogance.  The “want to be a” phrase indicates that this a choice that one is making.  It’s not a passive thing, but an active decision he or she has decided to make.  ii.  Wanting to be a friend has another consequence.  “Makes himself” is too weak for the Greek verb kathistemi, which found elsewhere in the New Testament takes on more of an official tone.  It may better be translated then, “to establish oneself as an enemy of God.”

What really puts this verse into perspective for us today is how the original readers would have understood the term “friend.”  We use it today pretty haphazardly in our Facebook generation, and sometimes we even use the term to throw an apple core at someone.  Back when James wrote this, though, it meant something far stronger. It can be defined as being of the “same soul.” To be of one soul with another meant to share the same attitudes, values and worldview.  A friend in this context sees everything the same way as the other. If one is a friend of God, there is oneness with Him. The opposite, therefore, is also true. 

The goal for every Christ-follower is to become more like Him.  We need to be of “one soul” with Him.  We end up being more and more like Him when this happens.  So we can’t be friends with the world, and become like Christ at the same time.

So, who’s your friend?

How My Masters Swim Group is Teaching Me to be a Better Pastor

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, my alarm goes off at 4:40am.  I love the alarm. My wife recorded it for me when I got my Iphone, and it says, “Wake up sunshine, it’s morning time, and I LOOOOOOVVVVEEEEE you!”  I hear my wife’s voice, a smile comes on my face, but then it’s time to start getting focused on the work that lies ahead of me.  I shuffle into the kitchen to get my V8 Fusion energy drink, eat a banana, and I’m out the door.  By 5am, I’m walking through the doors of the local Y, just bursting with excitement for the workout.  It’s all I can do to wait around until 5:15 when we actually start.

The group has grown over the year.  Really, it started with two guys who love to swim, and love to swim hard, while at the same time desire to help others get better in what many consider the scariest (though shortest) part of a triathlon.  One day, one of them looked at me and said, “You’re swimming with us.”  I was intimidated.  These guys, in my view, were perfect and amazing when it came to swimming.  They didn’t need me slumming in the lane with or next to them.  I wasn’t good enough.

Yet they embraced having me there anyway.  They would take their workouts, and tweak it so I could do it.  They would help my form, and encourage me every single morning I was there.  A month later, we started what we now call the OMC Masters Swim, and more and more began to come.  We’ve got slow swimmers, fast swimmers, skinny swimmers, and well, I’m in it, so fat swimmers.  We’ve got doctors, lawyers, architects, money embezzlers (inside joke with a girl named Kristin), IT guys, and even a preacher.  We differ politically, spiritually, and economically, but when Brad tells us to get swimming, we get swimming.  We’re there for a common purpose: To become the best triathlon swimmers we can possibly become.

What has happened over the last year is that we have developed a community and a culture that breeds improvement, and though we  compete with each other every workout, at the end, we are friends that just wants to see the one to your right and your left get better than they were the workout before.  That may mean we have to sacrifice aspects of our workout for the betterment of the group.  That may mean we don’t get to swim in the lane with our buddy (I want to cry when I don’t get to swim in the lane with Jeff and Brad P.).  We do it, though!

The next time I’m a youth pastor, I hope my group looks like that Masters group.  A diverse group of young men and young women who join together to accomplish what the church is supposed to accomplish and do.  To love God with all of their hearts, and to love people.  To set aside selfishness, and other negative things that unfortunately many label youth groups with, and be a group that’s all about helping the student to their right, and the student to their left grow and become more like Christ.  I want to guide these students, making disciples, because that’s what God desires.  I want to help foster an environment that seeks to make that happen.  I just hope I get the chance someday.