Every culture codifies its citizens’ conduct. Our parents rightly raise us with manners and teach us societal pleasantries. If we grew up in the American South, for example, we say Yes, Ma’am
or No, Sir as subconsciously as blinking. We all say please and thank you, and we learn to hold doors open for others. We don’t call or text someone past 9 p.m., and we do not show up at someone’s house unannounced.
Unless we are friends.
God created us to need each other. And yet, even with our most trusted friends, we often are tempted to play nice. We decline help, diminish our internal struggles, and deflect hard questions. Feigning self-sufficiency is pride that destroys. Sometimes we hide out of such sinful self-containment, believing we should be able to handle it all. Or, we may refrain from allowing others in—or pushing our friends to let us in—for fear it will drive them away. If our friends are navigating rough waters in their lives, we dread causing any kind of wave that may topple the boat. Yet to be godly friends, we must respectfully push past polite. We must wade in.
Jesus was far from polite. He routinely circumvented tiresome trends and traditions to pursue people’s hearts. Take the Sabbath for example. On the most rule-governed 24-hour period in Jewish society, Jesus sidestepped convention. On one occasion, he healed a man’s deformed hand, and his action sent the legalistic elite scrambling to kill him. In Matthew 12:11–12, Jesus condemned their hypocrisy: “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus ignored extra-biblical rabbinical manners for the sake of something better and of eternal significance.
When we follow Jesus’ precedent and minister to our friends in this way, we allow the gospel to transform us into kingdom-builders rather than mere rule-followers. The next time we feel apprehensive about acting on our friends’ behalf, let’s do it anyway. Show up at the door with the quintessential casserole—or subscribe a friend in need to a meal box service. Call at 9:01 p.m. Ask hard questions; say hard things. Sit in the radiology waiting room without waiting to be invited. Instead of asking our friends if they need help, let’s ask them what they need. Framing it this way assumes that our friends need help and that we are ready to give it. Of how much more value are our friends than our fears about offending them? Our discipleship to Christ and our friendships matter for eternity—far more than etiquette. Let’s take hold of our friends and lift them out of the pit.