Thursday, November 15, 2018

Week Forty-Six - Friendship with Jesus

Beside the Well
            I love to read old Christian books.  Like I’ve said before, the depth of thought and the beauty of the language outstrip anything we read today. 
            My friend lent me a book called The Transforming Friendship by Rev. Leslie D. Weatherhead written in 1928.  I expected to be reading about becoming a better friend, but instead it is a book about the friendship of Christ and how his friendship transforms our lives. 
            In the fifth chapter, entitled, The Inexorable Nature of the Friendship, Reverend Weatherhead laments the fact that the disciples of the early church would not recognize most of what we call Christianity today. He says, “Christianity is not a friendly society, much less a friendly society floated on tea.  Its symbol is not a cushion, but a cross.”
            That symbol alone is enough to hold many back from following Christ. Rev Weatherhead places before the reader three reasons why we draw back.     Let’s look at them for a moment.
            1) We draw back because we are afraid of what others will think. “There is not one person reading these words who does not know in his soul that he would be a far better man if he did not care what people thought of him.” (p 76)  Jesus’ example was not one of caring what people thought.  He remained true to his path—even when others thought differently.  So, when we fear being alone or ostracized, we are best to remember our Friend walked this path ahead of us.
            2) We draw back because we are afraid of answered prayer.  What?  Afraid of answered prayer?  Oh, there is so much to say here!  Prayer is asking, right?  We ask for God’s will, strength, victory, etc.  And Jesus’ answer is, “Are you willing to drink of the same cup?”  Look at it this way.  We ask for results.  He asks if we are willing to follow the rules to gain the results? (To trust and obey.) We ask for God’s will.  He asks, “Are you prepared to follow?”  We ask for strength.  He asks, “ Are you ready for loneliness and sacrifice?”  We ask for purity, and then we “clasp the rags of our impurity yet tighter to us.”  We ask for victory, but love our “hateful little sins more than victory over them.” We ask to see his face, but “the vision would scorch our petty souls.”  If he answered our prayers, “He might make us more than we dare to be. And every time a man prays, ‘Give me…’ Jesus answers, ‘Are you willing…?”  This one question—am I ready for answered prayer?— immensely challenges me.
            3) We draw back because we expect to get something out of it—what profit is there?  I’m sure you are saying, “O, I don’t look for profit in my Christian service.” Really?  The disciples did.  They wanted to sit on the right hand in glory.  They gave up all to follow and then questioned if they had made a good investment.  What was Christ’s response?  “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first”Mark 10:29-31.  So there is profit, but that is not to be our motivational factor.  We are called to be ambassadors, soldiers, and servants: obedient unto death.  That is our calling.  And the profit, as I see it, is found in being faithful.
            With those three reasons, Rev. Weatherhead concluded with a quote from Garibaldi.  “It is the big demand that makes heroic spirits.  It is the untamed jungle that makes the pioneer.  It is the untraversed, perilous journey that makes the explorer.  It is the big task that makes the big soul.” (p 79)
            So, what are we expecting from our Christianity?  A cushy ride or to become soldiers of the cross?  “Christ’s challenge is that we should go into training so as to become fit—fit for the Kingdom of God.”
            Your Friend asks, “Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink?” (Matthew 20:22)  Are you willing, no matter the cost, to be my friend?

Weatherhead, Leslie D, The Transforming Friendship, Epworth Press, London, 1933.

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