Friday, June 16, 2017

Circle of Friends (Proverbs 27)

circle of friends proverbs 27
Proverbs 27 is packed with wisdom.  In reflection, several passages reminded me of the importance of who forms your circle of friends and your inner circle.  I have to admit this is not the best exegesis of the text.  The one verse that stood out was verse 17 "Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another" which got me thinking about the other parts of the passage that speaks on the importance of friends (neighbours), friendship, and those people who form our circle of friends.  When we speak of "friends", everyone will define it differently.  Jesus had his 3-12-72-1000 and he interacted and related with them differently at each level.  One question today is who forms your circle of 3, 12, 72, 1000?   
  • 3: Peter, John (Jesus' beloved disciple), James (Mark 14:33-34, Mark 5:37)
  • 12: Jesus' Disciples (Mark 3:14)
  • 72: Jesus sends out them out (Luke 10) two-by-two
  • 1000: The crowds who followed Jesus and witnessed his ministry
We probably don't think about it too much other than to look at the number of friends you have on Facebook, but who is your 3-12-72-1000?  And if verse 17 is true that "iron sharpens iron"--who we "hangout" with day-to-day will shape who we are and become, what we believe, how we behave, our worldview, and how we live out the rest of our life.  Our friends matter.  And when we clearly understand our circle of friends we can be more intentional and focused on who we spend time with, and who we allow to influence us as individuals. I'm not saying to ditch all your friends tomorrow and pick three people hang out with every day; and maybe you do need to reassess. I am saying to be more aware of those few individuals in your life today who you will allow to be the iron that sharpens you; and vice versa. 

Friends allow us to be individuals--loving us and and gracefully accepting us for who we are but also desiring us to be transformed from the inside to be more like Christ each day.  As friends, we can be free to be who we are as well as being able to freely speak our hearts to each other.   And when you read on, you will find that genuine friends are not necessarily the people who flatter you and simply associate with you because they like the things that you do--in fact will refuse to flatter you and be overly impressed by you or what you do.

  • Let me highlight a few verses from Proverbs 27.
  • 2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.
  • 5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
  • 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; 
  • 9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
  • 10b  Better is a neighbour who is near than a brother who is far away.
  • 17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
  • 19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.
  • 21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.

Proverbs 27 begins with essentially the warning of not being a fool.  A food being someone who toots her own horn (2), boasts about what he will do tomorrow (1), provokes others (3), and is wrathful, angry and jealous (4).  

A friend rebukes (5) and it is good that a friend openly and honestly rebukes you and has the permission to be that voice in your life; at moments, our friend's voice can be as Christ Jesus himself to us.  To clarify, our friend is not Christ's voice and whenever we think we hear Christ's voice we will need discernment, but regardless our friend's advice should point us to Christ.  While rebuking is often sharp and criticism, it must be done respectfully, and with grace, honour and dignity--the relationship must be respected; but sometimes (as my wife does sometimes) needs to do it directly to keep me from making a fool of myself.  When your friend rebukes you, it will hurt (6) (not harm us) and you will be upset sometimes; however, we all know that we will be better people and sharpened by those words.  For a friend to rebuke us, is to in fact show care, concern, and love for us--they genuinely care that we are being shaped to be as God desires to be. At the foundation, there is trust and agape-love; rebuking "in love." Our friends will keep us honest and be ready to check our motives when needed.  

While a friend can rebuke you, your friends are also the ones who will praise you (2) and champion you; your friends are the ones who will support you, pray for you, and give you wise counsel (9).  When a friend counsels us and walks with us in our discernment and decision making, it will be sweet and make our heart glad.  Our friend is not to tell us what to do, but walks beside us and ensures that we make the decision, trusts that God has spoken to us, and supports us regardless of the outcome.  As mentioned earlier, a friend, therefore, is not there to flatter us but is invested in us and desires our hearts to reflect who we are made to be--as God's image bearers and as God intended them to be; in other words, friends care about our character and integrity, and ensure that we live authentic lives and thrive as persons.  When we are praised (21) or receive praise, who we are on the inside often is revealed--it is a test of our character and specifically concerning our humility.  Our friends are those who will support us, and stand with us in the spotlight or in the "rain" when things get rough; they will also be there to keep our feet on the ground so that the praise doesn't "get to our head".  

We also don't think about who we influence day to day. We definitely influence our close friends and they influence us--the 3 and 12.  Often we forget that when we interact with our 72-1000, it can have a profound effect on those people as well as the people who they influence; Our influence ripples out if you will.  What we say and do matters; what we don't say or don't do also matters.    Each day, we are to be Christ to the world.

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