"I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known unto you."—John 15:15
2009 is one for the history books, as we enter the third day of 365 that make up the calendar year of 2010, and I look back at all that has transpired in my world and am humbled. Humbled by the way I have handled those things well which I would not have otherwise in years previous, saddened by the way I handled things poorly that I could've handled better and crushed by the way I crucified opportunities presented to me that I was just too fearful to embrace.
I sit here, thinking upon the two quotes from early church fathers that the Lord has put on my heart today and the verse from John 15……how the concept of friendship fits with faith and the divinity of Scripture…..and my mind keeps drifting to a powerful tale I just finished reading from one of my new friends in the family of God and how God has shaped that story in amazing ways. What hits upon the walls of my mind is not the way God has been given honor and glory through this woman's testimony but how the church…how some of the faithful…who have been charged to be a friend, mentor and journeyer with her have failed her in this and by that failure, have dishonored God and Christ. It all comes down to a few sentences in the powerful telling of her story that speaks of the failure of us all…."I've been told to be ashamed of myself, in only slightly masked words. But I refuse to be ashamed when God has washed me clean. I've been fearful of people's responses – I've experienced everything from marriage proposals, to being outright rejected wholly or in part. But my God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and love."
Where, in those words, has the friendship….as taught to us by the example, words and deeds of our Savior……been given to this vibrant, alive and washed sister in the family? Her testimony rings out loud of the redemptive, restoring and healing love of our Father, speaking a silent indictment against the 'faithful' of organized Church.
This is an example of how we, as a 'corporate' collection of brothers and sisters, have failed and why the world looks upon us as hypocrites and liars as our own lives condemn even our own. I am not saying that we must allow sin to live in the church but who are we to say that sin has not been forgiven, redeemed and restored, cast away by the blood of Christ? We look to the fruit bore from the tree…..as Christ said, "No bad tree can bear good fruit and no good tree can bear bad fruit." This sister has more honor in her sacrifice than most of us have in our sinful condemnation of it.
I don't know where God is leading me in this…..the testimony of this sister in Christ resounds in my ears and breaks in my heart….and the verse from John which speaks of the high honor the Lord has given us through the honorific of 'friend'….the divinity of scripture….and faith. Granted, there is the obvious connection between this testimony, the absolute reliance she has upon scriptural authority and her faith that makes such divinity of scripture accurately endowed. Surely I can speak to that with some measure of 'experience' as those who know my testimony will attest to…..but there seems to lie deeper meaning within these four things that have been gathered together at this time for me to ponder, to seek God's wisdom within and to articulate into words as is my propensity to do
…..always the bard ….…
I struggled with what all these things meant, jumbled together in the various parts of my mind…..and I must admit honestly, I was a bit grumpy when I went to church this morning, because I so hate having anything unresolved in my mind and I knew that I would be seeing this warrior in our community called church today and I so wanted to impress upon her how epic her story was….not in the circumstances but in how God has shown His favor in the years since and how wrong, how very wrong the Church is to ever have rejected her under the blood of Christ, something I don't think in the halls of the 'postmodern' church she had ever been told…….in the end, I was only left with words to speak, words that fail to impart just the honor and grace that she has shown in the telling of her story.
Her faith, borne of circumstances and cemented in experience, makes her walk in the halls of the faithful with her head held high….not for a committed sin but because in the redemption of Christ's blood lie no more shame, no more guilt, about what has come before……we are new creatures and born anew under His image….her story tells of the a faith that is born from the trials and tribulations not of life, but of being among 'believers' who judge by the opinion of the day rather than the 'faithful' who judge according to the evidence and fruit of redemptive grace. She holds the meaning of faith as expressed in the first quote I had been 'impressed' with this morning…..
"Faith, so to speak, is a comprehensive knowledge of the essentials. And knowledge is the strong and sure demonstration of what is received by faith." Clement of Alexandria said, "It is built upon faith by the Lord's teaching."
She walks with the assurance of things unseen within the understanding of what the Lord has said within the Word and within her heart. She has realized John 15:15 and lived within a comprehensive understanding of what truly living washed by the blood and living in loving compassion for another is…..her tale speaks of it in volumes…. Her faith, surely not fully explored within the context of what God has for her, is more exposed, developed, strong and sure than many who sit within the pews or walk the halls and judge because she has demonstrated what she has learned in her own life…..
It is exciting for me to meet a living and breathing heroine….someone that I can say, "Hey, I know you…." And someone who has brought to life the divinity of Scripture through her testimony…..which is where the next quote from Origen comes into the tale…….
"The divinity of Scripture --- which extends to all of it --- is not [lost] because of the inability of our weakness to discover in every expression the hidden splendor of the doctrines veiled in common and unattractive phraseology. For we have the 'treasures in earthen vessels' so that the Excellency of the power of God may shine forth. For if the usual methods of demonstration used by men…..had been successful in convincing us, then our faith would rightly have been thought to rest on the wisdom of men --- not on the power of God. However, now it is evident to everyone who lifts up his eyes that the word and preaching have not prevailed among the multitude 'by persuasive words of wisdom, but by demonstration of the Spirit and of power.'"
Once we realize the power of the Scriptures, divinely 'endorsed' in the testimonies of the faithful because only the Spirit moving in God's plan could be the source of the strength, compassion, joy, peace and grace…..we can then realize the truly powerful, awesome and humbling fact that Jesus Christ….the Only Begotten Son of the great I AM……calls us friend.
It is not the simple 'friendship' that seems to haunt the world and even exists in the hallways of our "corporate" church experience…..a comrade, chum, confidant, ally or compatriot that is attracted to another by feelings of affection or personal regard, though for sure there is (at the simplistic level) such connection between us and our Savior. But, as is unlikely in the halls of our churches and in the daily expression of life, we don't go beyond these shallow waters of a deeper subject……friendship does not know limits but is unlimited in its expression, its strength and its commitment………
A friend will reveal themselves to those who bear the name…..exposed in ways that allow the chance for pain and sorrow, confidential information expressed with the power to hurt or to edify……
A friend will find high honor and pleasure in working with those who are of twin-soul, working in the commonest of community…..it is this joy in another's work in the world-wide redemption of Christ that resembles most the pleasure and delight that Christ has in us as fellow workers of the harvest.
And, as is evidenced by the tender affection of Christ while we were 'yet sinners' to die for us, a friend stands not in front of or behind another friend but alongside….in failure and success, peril and intercession….extorting us to stand our ground in the fight, encouraging us in the weariness of the struggle and seeking to restore us in healing from the wounds of this world by the love, compassion and grace that we were taught and live under in the friendship of Christ…….
Do you see how one cannot exist without the other??? Friendship, as taught and emulated by Christ, must come from knowledge, born and demonstrated by the faith of a Son in the divinity of a Father's word, written for the demonstration of God's power to shine forth upon a world hidden in darkness…..
Today, I got to give a hug to a friend who has stood upon the mountain top and told her tale….not for compassion borne from sorrow or human sympathy, but to speak of the grace, love and provision of a God who takes us from the hardest and most difficult places in our lives to a place where we know the truth of His love, embrace and glory…..and live in the promise of "all things good for those who love Him……"
It was a great day to be among the faithful…….and to express the Father's pride in one of His own……