September 10

Redemptive Friendships are Constant.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:9-13)

It’s Monday morning and I have a To Do list that is staggering. So maybe I should set priorities and determine the best time to take care of each item, around appointments. Hopefully, at the end of the day I won’t feel like I haven’t accomplished anything because I did the most important things first. Even if I get my priorities completed, it isn’t a lost day. I used to think like this until I realized that it is utterly un-Christlike. We are not created to finish To Do lists (or Honey Do lists). We were designed to be in fellowship with Jesus Christ as we move through our days that will have ups and downs. This is not to say that the lists go away—they don’t.

Life in Christ is not about getting things done but about living joyfully and redemptively with our Christian family, whom we also consider our friends. Romans 12:9-13 offers us a different kind of list that can help us get our thinking straight. However, the list in Romans is not accomplished by our determination. It is a description of the way Christians live with each other, of how we love our friends. If we are close to Jesus, our love will be genuine,  drawn to what is right, and repelled by sin (v. 9) When we are yielding to Christ, we can love one another affectionately and honorably (v. 10). Christ gives us the desire to serve him and others enthusiastically (v. 11). When we live for God we rejoice in the hope he has given us, we endure trials patiently and pray continuously (v. 12). Finally, the love of Christ moves us to help others materially and to offer our friends generous hospitality (v. 13). This is a picture of Christian friendship, with its deep love, constancy, and compassion.

In Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring,” Frodo Baggins had a great task to accomplish—to throw the ring of power back into the fiery waters of Mordor, after navigating a hellish landscape and fighting off demons of every kind. But he didn’t and couldn’t do it alone. His friend Sam Gamgee was beside him every step of the way. Frodo told him, “’It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. It is already dangerous. Most likely neither of us will come back.’ ‘If you don’t come back sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. ‘Don’t you leave him!’ they said to me. ‘Leave him!’ I said. ‘I never mean to. I am going with him if he climbs to the Moon, and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with,’ I said.” * In fact, as the title reveals, Frodo had a strong fellowship of friends with him: Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, Aragon, Boromir, Pippin, and Merry. Every one of them was committed to being with Frodo in whatever way needed until the end, no matter what. This is a picture of the robust and life-giving constancy that the Lord provides for his people through our friends—our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our goal together is heaven where the evil will end, and we will enjoy the fruit of Christ’s work, not ours.

If you make your day about constancy in your relationships, how will you spend your time? What picture or story will you have at the end of the day with your friends? Will you look at your list with fresh eyes, to know the needs of your friends and how you might offer them hope, joy, love, and service?

* J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, as Frodo and Sam are leaving the Shire to destroy the ring.

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