For the past 2 weeks, I have had the pleasure and privilege of hosting a couple of friends in my home. One friend, Rev. Hadley R. Edwards, is no stranger to many of us. He has preached for Preston Hollow several times, as well as preaching and conducting the memorial service for my beloved Antoine Bufford. The other friend, Moussa Fodeibou, you’ve heard me mention a few times in sermons. Both of these persons have been a friend to me over many years. I’ve known Hadley for going on 42 years, Moussa I’ve known for over 20 years. Hadley lives in the New Orleans area, and Moussa is currently residing in Central Africa Republic. Neither is close by, but both have shared their friendship with me in profound ways.
I’m reflecting on the joy I have experienced over the last couple weeks having both of them near me. We were created with a need for relationship. There are many kinds of relationships; romantic, business, casual, professional, etcetera. We need those different kinds of relationships because none of us can exist completely on our own. It is in relationships we are able to accomplish and achieve much. I believe friendships, close friendships, are to be treasured. So I thought I’d see what the Scriptures tell us about friends and friendships.
The psalmist says in Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” Living together in unity takes a special kind of friendship, one that sets aside differences for the sake of the relationship. We are not any of us going to agree 100% of the time with everyone else. We are not going to think, speak or act alike in every circumstance. What we are capable of is, prioritizing our relationship above our opinions, presumptions, and prejudices. We can each say to the other, we don’t agree, but we agree to stay connected.
In Proverbs 27:9 we are told “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” When Antoine passed away, my friend Hadley was there to console me, to encourage me, to lift me up, and to support me. Even though he didn’t live close by, every day he called to check on me. The blessing of that kind of friend cannot be overstated. Many of you, far more than I can count or name, offered the same kind of friendship. You may never know how your words and presence in someone’s life when they are hurting, can refresh and renew that person. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” As followers of Jesus, one of the embodiments of Jesus is the encouragement we give to one another. It is most Christ-like.
I met my friend Moussa when he was 19 and had just arrived in this country from Chad in Africa. He was here to learn English and to study for his degree. He was wide-eyed and fresh and filled with a passion for learning and experiencing this new place. I lost track of Moussa for 20 years. In those years he accomplished much. He finished a degree in finance, and did graduate work in international business. He worked as a flight attendant for Delta and traveled the world, using his multi-lingual talents. His father passed away in January of 2021, and because of the pandemic he was not allowed to be present for his burial. We reconnected in August of last year and have become very close. We’ve been there for each other through shared grief, but also through shared joy of reconnection. In Ecclesiastes 4:10, Paul says, “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Moussa and I chat daily and lift one another up, it is a blessing beyond measure from God to have found each other again. Moussa is Muslim and I am Christian, but we have no hurdle or barrier between us. We pray for each other and we talk about how God has seen us through these days we’ve had to travel.
I’ve said all of this to say; today, honor and treasure your friends. None of us know the length of time we have, tell your friends how much they mean to you and how much you love them. Do not neglect these things, for true friends are a rarity and God’s great gift to us. In 1 Peter 4:8-10 we’re told, “8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” So friendships and relationships are ways of expressing God’s grace and love to those around us. I think I too often take for granted the friends I’ve been blessed with. I hope each of you know I consider you a dear friend, and I feel daily a blessing to have you in my life. I can’t name you all, you know who you are. I’m expressing my most profound gratitude for all you do for me.
I ran across this prayer as I was preparing this word, let me share it with you.
“Lord Jesus, Thank you for giving me such a vibrant community of friends to do life with. I praise you for the people you have blessed me with, the ones who have come alongside me to love, encourage, support, and uplift me through all the twists and turns of life. I’m so grateful that I do not have to go through life alone, but that you have shown me examples of your love through my dear friends.I pray that you would be present in my friendships, that you would be drawing us together in deeper community with one another toward greater unity with you. I pray that you would help heal any places of brokenness or discord in my friendships, and that you would restore any friendships that have fallen apart.Like your Word says in Colossians 3:12-13, may I clothe myself in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. May I be patient with my friends, and may I forgive freely like you have forgiven me. May I shine your light in my friendships, giving glory to you through all that I do, say, and think. Thank you for my friends, Jesus. Thank you for the ways they build me up and remind me of your goodness and faithfulness. In your name I pray, Amen.”
Your fellow traveler on the Way,