Like me, you’re probably familiar with dealing with the trials of friendship, and the ways you will extend yourself to make things work. But at some stage, you probably believed you had reached a point of no return, and that the relationship simply wasn’t worth it. This was me the other day in a situation with my friend who has also been my housemate for the past three years. I decided enough was enough, and maybe it was best we weren’t friends anymore.
Yes, I was being dramatic, but three years’ worth of frustration might make you a little bit short tempered too. Without going in to too much detail, it simply came down to the fact that regardless of the sincerity of his words, his actions suggested that he simply did not respect me. Which is fine – but only as long as we weren’t friends.
Over the past three years, there are a few things I have repeatedly asked him not to do, most of which he continued to do weekly, and before long, we’d developed a pretty standard routine:
· Step 2: He apologises
· Step 3: He does the same thing next week.
Eventually, I reached a point where I thought “Okay, I know he knows that these things bother me, but he carries on doing them regularly, so he really must not care that they bother me. Right? I don’t need friends like this. How can I object to other people not respecting my wishes when I let the person I live with do it regularly?” I really couldn’t comprehend it, and I was ready to burn a three-year friendship over it as a last resort. I mean, I understand forgiveness and I intended to forgive him … just from a distance.
Now I realise God must have been listening to my thoughts and chuckling away. Because when I prayed that night the first thing God said to me was:
“It’s not nice, is it?”
Me: What do you mean?
God: I see you’re frustrated. It’s not nice when you keep requesting someone to refrain from things that displease you, especially when you both know it is a request that they could easily comply with.
Me: I’m just tired of it
God: When you’ve been asking for years for them to follow the same simple set of instructions that if anything, are mutually beneficial. The things that would make it easy for you to be a good friend to them, they just refuse to do.
God: And yet, when they need something they will happily come to you and ask, expecting you to simply forget the 51 weeks a year where they were happily indifferent to your voice. So, you think that this offence is worth burning friendships?
Me: Sometimes you have to
God: So should I burn yours?
God: You’ve had the same set of instructions for 22 years. You know what I want from you and you know what bothers me. Yet, you regularly discard these instructions. Instructions you could easily comply with. Instructions that we both know are ultimately in your best interest and the best interest of those around you. But when you need something you still come and ask me, and I still give it to you, and you still ignore my requests. This cycle has been going on for far more than the three years, so I ask again, should I burn yours?
I really had nothing to say, it’s crazy how much we take God for granted. We do a multitude of things to God that we would never let others do to us, and yet the possibility that God would say He’s had enough of us simply seems like an impossibility.
– “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
– “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Luke 6:46
– “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” John 8:51
In these verses, it is very clear to see that in the same way I believed that if my friend really loved me he would do the things I asked, God also has expectations of us that are essential for a healthy relationship with Him. The way this is worded suggests that keeping God’s commandments is an indicator of our love for him. Therefore, if you are not even trying to keep his commandments, can you really say you love God? This is very similar to what I would have said to my friend, as a suggestion that he didn’t value our friendship. Only for me to turn around and have to remind myself of this when dealing with God.
The hypocrisy is almost embarrassing. We shouldn’t be able to have it both ways, running to God as his loved children to ask him for help, but when he instructs us – as a parent would to a child they care for – we are suddenly grown and ready to do what we want. We actually have more reason to follow God’s requests than an earthly relationship, because unfortunately, these don’t offer eternal life. Imagine how much more so I would be if I offered my friend eternal life and he still refused to heed my requests. I would actually just think he’s not very intelligent, or perhaps even insane, which causes me to question what God must think of us.
This is not to discourage or dishearten you or to say that because you lied that time or fornicated that time that it means you cannot love God or you have lost your chance at eternal life. We all struggle with keeping some of God’s commandments, be it not to gossip, be prideful, dishonest, lazy – the list is very long. Romans 3:23 tells how we are all sinners and not worthy of God’s glory. This means that even if you tried, you could not follow God’s request to a standard worthy of his glory.
But this is one of the things that sets Christianity apart from other religions, we don’t have to earn salvation because it would be impossible. Only one man was perfect enough, Jesus Christ. So God isn’t looking for us to earn his salvation, he’s already promised it to us once we accept him as our Lord and saviour. Where the obedience comes in is that, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and saviour, the relationship with him will make you want to stay away from the things that displease him. This is why we as Christians should not focus on improving our ability to blindly follow the bible, but instead, should work on improving our relationship with Christ and everything else falls into place.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” Isaiah 4:28
Unlike my friend, we do not have to worry about God giving up on our relationship after three years of transgressions. Isaiah 4:28 lets us know that God will not grow tired of us, so if you fall off that proverbial horse, the love you have for Christ should encourage you to get back on it and to carry on doing your best. However, in the same way you wouldn’t take advantage of a forgiving friend, you certainly shouldn’t be looking to take advantage of an understanding God. After all, He sees your heart and inevitably we will all face judgement in accordance with this standard.