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Ms. Manners

Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15

Watch session six: the unique ministry of friendship

ms. manners

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.

friends over sheep

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.


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Daily Question

What unspoken social rules govern your friendships? What holds you back from wading into yourfriends’ lives more deeply? How could you do that this week?

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Comments (4)

Some unspoken social rules in my friendships are: when someone asks how you are doing, once you answer you ask how they are doing, wish them happy holidays, send pics of family and ask for their pics, send messages letting them know you are thinking of them or following up on a previous conversation….so they know you listened, you cared, and you are here… open to be a friend at any time! If you cannot do something that was planned, we understand, we do not judge and we love you and support you!

Something that holds me back from digging into friendships deeper would be not wanting to offend someone or make them uncomfortable or bring up a sore subject and get them in a bad or depressing mood….also saying something that they would take the wrong way….like if it is a touchy subject…if I don’t word it correctly…I get nervous it may come out wrong.

I can’t say that I have noticed any unspoken social rules with my closest friends. We are all in the throws of raising young children. And if we don’t answer a text right away (which is the easiest way to do a quick catch up with busy lives and various schedules), it’s not frowned upon like it maybe used to be prior to having children. One thing that has helped to ease this distance that can go for long periods of time is to set dates with my friends and we set a new date again before we depart. Then we know that life goes on and we are allowed to be busy, but we will meet again and set aside that special time with each other or with families in tow.
I aim to spend more time in prayer on how to confidently wade more into their lives and express my faith more bravely. I do try to ask how I can help instead of if they need help and often my friends just say no, let’s just visit. Just someone to talk to and listen. The acts of service are still needed at times, but for this phase of life we like to sit and be calm with each other. Quieting our bodies and being in tune with words and thoughts.

I don’t like to make phone calls, but I love to get them! I am reluctant to make the call because of the initial awkwardness, especially if I haven’t called or spoken to the person in a while. Maybe they are busy with something, maybe they don’t want to talk to me for some reason. With caller ID on phones, I guess the option is there so that they don’t need to pick up if they don’t want to, and they don’t have to return my written message either. I know the awkwardness is over in a few seconds, but it still stops me. I will text or email though. So, I need to get over that hesitation and when the spirit moves me to reach out, I must.

I love to text and talk to my friends. I think a social rule that tries to govern is that I shouldn’t do that too much, it makes me think I’m needy, texting someone everyday. One thing that holds me back from wading into my friends’ lives more deeply is I’m afraid I won’t have enough space for all the things we delve into. In reality, that’s not up to me, the Spirit makes space for it. I just need to obey, and that’s how I could wade deeper this week.

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