Last month, we focused on understanding
how God is our Parent and Best Friend. This month
we'll examine how to improve our friendships with
What's important to you in friendships? What makes
a good friend? What kind of friends do you want to
The best way to have the kind of friends you want
is to be that kind of friend. Trying to change another
person won't work. But you can change your thinking
and your behavior. So, the most effective use of your
energy and time is to learn how to be a good friend
to yourself and others. Be the person with whom you
want to be. And then watch how it affects your friendships
So, how do we become this friend? A lawyer once asked
Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29).
Jesus answered with one of the best examples of how
to be a friend, a neighbor, in his parable of the
which you can read.
The summary is this: a Jewish man was robbed, hurt,
and left for half dead. Two Jews, a priest and a Levite,
who, because of their respectable religious professions
should have been examples of compassion and kindness,
walked right by the wounded man without doing anything
for him. A Samaritan, though, stopped and helped the
wounded man far beyond what anyone would expect.
Let's look at how the Samaritan was a friend to the
wounded man, how he showed compassion to him:
- He noticed him.
- "His heart went out to him" (The
Message Luke 10:33).
- He stopped what he was doing to take care of the
- He bandaged his wounds - attended to his immediate
- He took him to an inn where he could rest and
- He paid for the man's stay at the inn and gave
the innkeeper the equivalent of at least two day's
- He told the innkeeper that if there were any more
costs for the man's care, he would pay for them
when he returned.
When Jesus asks the lawyer, "Which now of these
three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that
fell among the thieves?" (Luke 10:36), the answer
was pretty clear: "He that shewed mercy on him"
(Luke 10:37). A neighbor is one who is kind, considerate,
loving -- a true friend. And for individuals living
at that time, a neighbor was considered to be as close
as a brother or sister.
This seems rather basic to us. But Jesus' story must
have shocked his audience. The Jews defined "neighbor"
in a very narrow way. To them, their neighbors were
fellow Jews. Anyone else was not considered a neighbor.
Samaritans, who lived right next door, were not neighbors,
but enemies. The Jews felt superior to the Samaritans;
they despised them; and they avoided dealing with
them at all costs. In effect, the Jews were prejudiced.
In this simple and profound story, Jesus condemns
both prejudice and elitism and affirms two very important
- everyone is worthy of love, and
- everyone is capable of loving anyone.
Jesus put no racial, religious, or gender stipulations
on these facts. Indeed, the man who showed the most
love was the Samaritan whom they considered inferior
and whom they treated disrespectfully. But the Samaritan
rose above hatred and prejudice and reached out to
help this Jewish man.
Jesus' parable really answers two questions:
Question 1: Who is my neighbor?
Answer: My neighbor is "one who is in
need, regardless of what ethnic origin or physical
condition" (Kee 480). My neighbor, my friend,
is anyone I can help by loving.
Question 2: How can I act neighborly or
be a neighbor or friend?
Answer: I can be a friend by helping those
in need. "Those in need" does not refer
to those only in my specific group of friends.
We must love ourselves, strangers, friends, and even
those who make life difficult for us. How do we do
that? We certainly don't approve of mean, critical,
or abusive behavior. Rather, we separate the behavior
from the person, even from ourselves. We see and acknowledge
the good in others, and in ourselves. When we see
the "good," we see individuals as God has
made them. This makes them feel loved, accepted, and
appreciated -- which is what so many people want and
need. Love gives us the ability to see ourselves and
others more gently, more compassionately. Appreciating
and accepting others just the way they are without
trying to change them is acting as a true friend.
That is the best thing we can do for others and for
ourselves. For love has the power to transform individuals,
situations, and lives.