Never Say Never: Why Jesus Agrees with Justin Bieber
Never Say Never – Why Jesus Agrees With Justin Bieber
Bible schools are stereotyped to be places to become pastors and places to become pastors’ wives.
There’s no way around the fact. But wait, before you roll your eyes and think that I’m about to strum on the same old six-string chords of love, I’ll ruin the suspense: it’s not about dating. (Editor’s note: we’re aware that about half our readers just exited the page and logged back into Facebook.)
However, there is a slightly new and upcoming trend – and perhaps I’m just seeing it for the first time, perhaps it comes with age, or whatever the case – to revolt from that pattern and declare independence.
While the number is still few compared to those who are dying to date and get married, and after all, it is (ring by) spring time, there is a faint scream from people who don’t want to get married, or at least claim they don’t want to date.
Though I tend to fall into the “hopeless romantic” spectrum of feelings, intellectually and selfishly I catapult back over to the “bachelor to the rapture” side of the conversation.
As I’ve wrestled through this conversation with quite a few people, these are generally the responses and reasoning behind staying single:
“Marriage just seems difficult, and come on, I can do more for the kingdom as a single loving Jesus.”
“I like having my friends and freedom – marriage seems like an old ball and chain.”
“I’ve kept my standards and lived up to them – most people haven’t – so I don’t think I can ever find someone who can live up to the same standard.”
“I dated seriously, it didn’t work out, and it really hurt. Why go through that again when I have Jesus?”
“Girls are confusing.”
“Men are confusing.”
“It would be a financial burden on me.”
The list goes on and on. The striking thing about these responses, is that it always start off with an I statement, usually about how good that individual is, followed by a they statement, explaining what a burden the other person would be.
While I’m going to attack this ideal of the word never, I want to be clear about something – it goes much farther than dating and marriage. How many of us have heard the following:
“I’m never going to be a missionary. Period.”
“I’ll never watch porn.”
“I’ll never have sex outside of marriage.”
“I’ll never get drunk.”
“I’ll never watch The Bachelor.” (Guilty.)
There are some fundamental root issues within “Never” statements that all relate to identity issues and sin issues in a person’s heart. I’ll cover a few.
1. Pride: With all of these examples, the root of the sentence is all about the individual: Who I am, what I can do, where I will go, what I have done, my strengths, my abilities, my desires.
As I mentioned before, the justification of the reasoning is blamed on other: Who they are, what they do, where they are going, what they have done, theirweaknesses, their faults, their (evil) desires.
These statements are usually said with a demeaning and condescending heart towards others.
2. Insecurities/Worry: The second thing that jumps out about these “never” statements is the insecurities. Usually, after placing blame on someone or something else, they start to justify themselves by using excuses.
“I would be a pastor, but what about money?”
“I wouldn’t have gotten drunk, but I was tired.”
Ultimately, many of these “never” ideologies are really cover ups for fears and insecurities about the unknown. Sure, you actually do want to get married, but the fears of learning to be selfless, not knowing if you will be a good husband or wife, worrying that you will become another statistic, all lead you to the reactionary response of “I’m never getting married.”
You would go work for a nonprofit, you know that’s what God is calling you to, but ultimately $60,000 of debt is a lot of money and being in ministry won’t exactly pay it off quickly.
On the flip side, you could say, “I wanted to be a photographer, but I’ll never be as good as her” or “I wanted to be a business major, but I’m not as competitive or experienced as others!”
This is all simply worry and anxiety!
3. Idol Worship: We sing a song at church that proclaims, “Turn from your statues and idols made of gold. Rise from your knees, stop worshipping, the splinters of broken gods, turn and see your King!”
I love that imagery because it’s first scriptural and second it addresses one of the very roots of our sinful nature. “Never” statements are really revelations about the idols in our heart.
We would do ________, but really, we love our situation or ourselves more. Move out of state for college? Sure, but my girlfriend can’t move with me. Go to seminary? Sure, but being a psychologist pays more. Give up Starbucks every day for a month and give that extra money to a couple in my community group? No thanks, coffee is what I need to get through the day.
Idols of people, idols of money, idols of “needs”, idols of self.
At the end of the day, idol worship leads to “Never” statements, because “Never” statements are about us – what we can or can’t be, what we will or will not do, what we want or don’t want, and not about Jesus. Idol worship is all about us, and trying to make the created greater than the creator.
So, as with everything, let’s look at Jesus and the Cross and see what the Bible has to say.
What Jesus says about pride:
In Luke 9, the disciples are arguing about who the greatest among them is. Sidenote, if you and your friends are ever wondering the same thing, it doesn’t really matter, because all of are terrible in light of Jesus.
Jesus’ response? “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is one who is great.” (9:46-48).
While I want to stray away from the topic of how becoming last doesn’t mean becoming some person hell-bent on making sure “he is the least of these,” I do want to point out Jesus is making this point to direct us towards Him and being servant hearts. In the majesty of who He is, we are all last. None of us compare. But, there is hope. By modeling our lives after His servant-hearted life, together, we can enter the Kingdom redeemed, justified, and in that sense, first!
Also see Mark 7:14-23 and Proverbs for more on pride – specifically Proverbs 16.
What Jesus says about insecurities and worry:
“Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25.
What I love about this passage is that it actually connects to idols – pleasures, image, and monetary items – but more on that in a minute. Jesus calls us to live in the here and now. I tell my football players that all the time, that we need to be, “right here, right now.”
If we start living parenthetically (Dr. Thoennes alert), we start missing things. If all we do is focus on Easter Break, we will miss Good Friday, some key notes in class, and probably start zoning out from our quality friendships. If we only focus on frozen yogurt, then we could miss the wonderful strawberries at The Caf. If all we do is focus on the resurrection, and not Jesus’ birth and humanity, we miss one of the most crucial parts of the gospel. If we only think about eternity, we will miss the opportunity to bring people to Christ to celebrate with us in eternity.
So, as Jesus says, stop! Continue to seek Jesus, expand the kingdom, and look to what He is calling you to right this very moment. If you’re a student, then study. If you’re a husband or wife, then don’t just be a good husband or wife, but flourish in doing so and make your spouse see Jesus in a deeper way. if you’re a barista, make the best latte for the worst customer for the glory of God. Get the point? Good.
What Jesus says about idols:
“And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “…You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. (Luke 18:18-23).
Most pastors use this passage as way to show how difficult it is to give up money for Jesus. Yes, this is true. However, there is more. This man has an identity issue wrapped up in what he did, does, and can do. He is wealthy, probably respected, and he knows it.
His idol is himself.
Jesus calls us to lay down our idols, pick up our cross, and follow him (Luke 9:23). The earthly cost can be extremely painful.
For those that are well off, giving up a large portion of your income, shrinking down on your lifestyle, and doing it cheerfully can be hard. For those that are popular but don’t talk about Jesus to your friends because of losing their stature, then yes, being persecuted isn’t exactly a fun thing.
Picking up cross isn’t painless. Ask Jesus. But it’s worth the cost here on earth in order that we may hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So instead of claiming that you need that Mocha Frap and a few hours of sleep instead of church, I challenge you to rethink your heart and your identity.
As my pastor once told me, we should be thankful Jesus didn’t look at the sun on the day of crucifixion and say, “You know what, I think I’ll pass on this. I could use some more time in the garden instead of this whole crucified thing.”
Jesus calls us to live sacrificially, not comfortably, he calls us to serve, not consume, and he calls us to flourish, not just live life contently.
So, instead of claiming you’ll be celibate, sober, rich, and comfortable, try to adapt to the idea that God calls us to uncomfortable situations in the least to stretch us, mold us, grow us, and help us flourish.
Stop claiming what you can do, and start proclaiming what Jesus hasdone, is doing, and will do.
To those who think marriage will be hard: Yes. Duh. No kidding. But after witnessing my parents and couples at church grow together, reflect Jesus to each other, and serve the Kingdom, it certainly can portray Jesus’ marriage to the church and to us in a new light.
To those who don’t want to go into ministry because you have debt will provide. Yeah, you’re going to have debt. Have faith too.
To those who think they have abilities, talents, and control: you don’t. Jesus does. We’re all warped and tainted – more like consumed – by our sinful and depraved nature. Jesus came to claim us from that.
Jesus redeems us. Jesus loves us. Jesus saves.
It’s all about Jesus.
Editors Note: For more on these subjects check out the following podcasts from Reality L.A and Solid Rock Church (Portland, Ore.).
The purpose of this blog is to push people towards the cross, to see and seek Jesus more passionately, and to encourage people to push the Kingdom. For contact information, check out the links on the right.
“It’s sad that the city of Denver will be losing a man as giving and selfless as Tebow, who spent more time in Denver hospitals than the Vicodin rep. Then again, Denver is getting a man who has a children’s hospital in Indianapolis named after him.”—
I love Rick Reilly. Man is ALWAYS putting stuff into perspective. Manning is a Christian too…ironic…and, Christians are going to be pissed that a Christian got replaced…oh wait. Let’s put down our idols.
Leaving a Legacy, Trusting Jesus, and Frodo Baggins: Why Being Disqualified is a Great Thing
To my wonderful friends:
Wow, what an exhilarating ride.
From the very beginning, I told Ann Marie the following.
1. We weren’t going to care about what everyone else was doing – we would worry about ourselves.
2. We would take the high road, not participating in mud slinging and if anything from our (specifically my) past came up, we would use it to point people to Jesus.
3. We needed to realize that the lessons and experiences weren’t going to come from winning the election, but instead the journey up until the election.
In hindsight, I’m humbled, by God’s grace, to say that all three proved to speak volumes of truth into our lives.
I tweet a lot. This time it cost much more than a few people getting angry at me.
Rick Warren (@rickwarren) tweeted and said to shoot him any prayer requests. Without thinking, I responded that I was running for AS President, I tagged Biola, mentioned other capable leaders were also running, and asked for wisdom and humble hearts.
That’s it. I didn’t tell people to vote for me, I didn’t campaign, but I did break a rule.
I need to stress that it was a complete accident, a simple but monumental mistake, and it cost us a chance at the election. I didn’t do it from a heart of cheating or trying to sway votes. Trust me, as the AS Election Board agreed, one tweet wouldn’t sway an election of 4,000 undergraduate students.
As I said above, I take complete and utter responsibility. I tweeted, I broke a rule, and I am at full fault.
When I got the call from AS, I felt terrible.
First, I felt immense stupidity for doing something so careless.
Second, I felt like I just lost the election.
Third, I felt like I let everyone down, starting with Ann Marie and leading to you guys. So many people put in so many hours of hard work, prayer, and time into our campaign, and with 140 characters, I completely threw it away.
I spent time on the phone with my parents, first throwing up dinner from the stress (sorry for the visual) and secondly weeping for you guys. We wanted to do a good work for Christ and His kingdom at this school reaching the lost, and I felt that we let a lot of people down in doing so.
I am extremely sorry. Words cannot express my deep and honest sorrow for letting you guys down. Each of you has played an integral part in my life during the last three years, and I was running first to serve Jesus and second to honor my friends. Because of this, my heart aches. It wasn’t about winning, but serving, and I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to fully serve you guys to my fullest ability.
How Jesus Redeems:
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18.
Ironically, this was straight out of our campaign “chapter of scripture.” And it proved to be very true. This was a humbling experience, and I want to apologize for my arrogant and proud self.
However, I can tell you this – Jesus redeems us. After our meeting with the election committee, where I basically laid out what I am writing to you, I was filled with immense peace. Just as I told Ann Marie that it would be the journey and not the results that would provide lessons, God showed revealed a lot about His character and mine.
He showed me my depraved nature in a very applicable and tangible way. My proud and arrogant beliefs about myself reeked from my soul throughout this process. Much like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, I was beginning to love my biggest enemy.
For that, I want to apologize. At times, I know I have let my pride overrun who I am. I have worked hard to be exposed in community at church, Biola, and by Jesus. This time, I was full of myself, and although many of you might not have noticed, many did, and thank you for pointing it out and helping me seek Jesus in a deeper way.
“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13
Keep desiring, pursuing, and exploring righteousness and holiness.
I’m supporting Chris Yim and Laura in their bid for presidency. Getting to know Chris and already having known Laura, I trust their character, heart for Jesus, and believe they will be the best team to lead this campus back to a heart for the Gospel message of Christ.
I don’t know what God has in store for me, but for one of the first times in my life, I’m very at peace about it. I plan to explore my options in AS and SMU, as well as at returning to coaching football.
I ask for your prayer, for myself, Ann Marie, and the teams still going through the election process.
Please vote for whomever you feel the Holy Spirit is leading you to. This is still important. Be active and involved, and make a difference.
As a final note, I want to stress this:
My mistake was stupid. But it’s a great opportunity to point people to Jesus, share the gospel message of grace, and leave a legacy for His Kingdom.
If you believed in our campaign, you simply believed in two people wanting to love Jesus more deeply, intensely, and bringing people up to speed on the vision of leaving a legacy. We can still do that together, not as AS President and VP, but as always, brothers and sisters who want to bring redemption to this world.
In love, peace, and grace,
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8.
“This might be the beginning of something better. Might be the end of everything good. But before we slog into what happens next, where you’ll go, what you’ll do, we owe you a thank you for what you’ve done and who you’ve been.”—
Depression, Sexual Assault, and Porn - What We Need to Do As Leaders
There is no easy way to get into this subject. I want to keep it concise, to the point, and pointed. The stats I will provide you will be heavy, painful, and thought provoking. I am writing this blog to fellow believers, leaders, and hope that it points people to Jesus and helps us process what’s going on in our direct ministries and communities, taking us from the broad spectrum we all focus on into a directed and specific discussion on how we can be pursuing our communities with deeper love and conviction.
I wanted to first cover some “pre-reqs” to reading this blog.
1. People sometimes ask me from what authority I speak from, or what gives me authority to “preach” to people. I hope that most of you see it from a heart that loves Jesus and wants fellow Christians to be awakened from sleepiness, as well as encourage and push fellow leaders to think deeper and love more intentionally.
2. I have held a variety of positions in leadership (and non-leadership positions) over the last three years at Biola University. That includes stints with student government, assisting ResLife, working with University Communications and Marketing, coaching high school football, and being trained to lead some ministries at Mars Hill Church Orange County.
3. Jesus is the ultimate leader and authority. I want to remind you that these topics will be heavy and hard to process. Pray and seek truth from Jesus on how you can utilize this knowledge to impact the world for His kingdom.
With the recent announcement of new RA’s at Biola University, I had the privilege to meet with a future Hope South leader over FroYo (Yogurtland for the win). We were able to discuss the process of being hired, the hardships of being an RA, the fears and hopes she had, and some advice I had from being involved (although not an RA) with ResLife and from being close friends with many RA’s who have expressed their discontent or frustration over the last three years, with how hard it is to be an RA and how there is a growing disconnect with being able to do their duties and not burn out.
If you haven’t checked out my latest blog on friendships, I highly recommend you do so. It will give you a foundation on my beliefs about leadership and community, and whether you disagree or agree, this blog won’t make much sense without it.
1. In any leadership position, but especially as an RA, we’re called to connect with our team, floor, crew, group, etc., in a deep and meaningful way.
This can be extremely hard if we don’t redefine “friendships.”
If we look at that calling and think that we have to be friends or even best friends with everyone in leadership role, we are in trouble. We can’t be. It’s physically, emotionally, and socially impossible.
We can connect in authentic ways. Realizing this, it’s important to take away the burden of thinking “it’s our job” to be best friends with everyone and make it our calling. The word job is often used in negative light, but I believe it goes right along with “calling.” To call people your job isn’t bad – it’s bad if you check out after 5pm everyday and don’t care authentically for their well-being.
If you are able to successfully redefine the word “friend,” you will then be able to connect to your team or floor in a more effective way.
All of a sudden it no longer becomes a to-do list line but a calling! You can meet up with them in 1x1s and enjoy it, you can goof around with them and actually unwind, you can counsel them in their deepest (and sometimes not their deepest) time of need, and you can build more authentic and quality relationship with them (again, not friendship. Your friends are different than relationships).
2. Delegate well, and push people to reach their potential. If you need to plan a floor event, ask the women and men on your floor to help out. Have them come up with ideas and call places, have them print out a sign up sheet, etc.
This isn’t a dereliction of duty but rather a delegation of duty that will help you succeed as their authority (and fellow student) but also empower them to grow! Now, if you give off all your responsibilities, that’s another thing, but since you are a leader, I’ll assume you don’t do that!
3. Pray, fast, and get away. It’s okay to take a Sabbath day once in awhile. Turn off the phone, leave your MacBook at home, get in the car and go to the beach or coffee shop – I recommend the Art District in LA where Handsome Brother Roasters just opened up. I actually just saw an RA there spending his day reading!
I bring these stats up to help provide a vision for God’s kingdom and to push people to Jesus. As leaders, we need to be aware these problems and sins exist, and we need to utilize this powerful knowledge to deeply reach our community in love, grace, and Christ-centered visions.
· In 2010, 253 million prescriptions were written for anti-depressants in the U.S.
· America has a population of 311 million people.
That’s 88% of our population who have been diagnosed as depressed, including children, teenagers, and adults, those who know Jesus and those who don’t.
· There are more than 34,000 suicides a year.
· 94 suicides a day
· One every 15 minutes.
A floor in Horton can have nearly 70 people on it.
If we base it on statistics, those who feel the symptoms of clinical depression (prolonged sadness, mood swings, thoughts of suicide, lack of energy, sleep etc., for more than two weeks), then 56 people on a floor could be depressed.
We have students on suicide watch every year. Yet, many times, RA’s aren’t even aware of it…more often, roommates are not aware of it. On top of that, many of our leaders suffer from it.
Those who are depressed can often put on a good Christian face to hide the pain and hell they feel inside. Sometimes, we can never tell.
I want to raise the question on why we don’t know. If we’re truly in community, these things will come up. So, how can we be pursuing people deeper and more authentically?
Sexual Assault Victims: Any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.
· Every 2 minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted.
· 17% (or 1/6) men and 25% (1/4) women are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime.
· 90% of young women involved in prostitution (or porn, adult entertainment, etc.) were sexually abused as children.
· 80% of victims are assaulted by a known acquaintance.
· 80% of victims are under 30.
· Only 5-20% of assaults are actually reported.
My heart is grieved when I reread these stats. We’re facing an epidemic – and without resolution. If we break this down, that means anywhere from 1,200-1,700 Biola students have been assaulted or will be assaulted.
Many of whom have been assaulted and either has kept it secret or never properly healed.
If you take a floor of 60 girls in a dorm, 15 are assault victims.
On a floor of 60 guys, 10 are victims.
Many are assaulted by family members or people in the church – which leads to a lie by Satan that they cannot go anywhere to tell anyone.
That lie is from the pit of hell, and we need to reach these students.
Again, how many of us don’t know the truth in the broken pasts of our friends? So, how can we be pursuing people deeper and more authentically?
Porn: Including soft and hardcore images, videos, magazines, or anything that constitutes sexual material.
· 90% of children ages 8-16 have viewed porn.
· Porn sites comprise 12% of all the Internet sites available.
· 25% of the search engine requests are for porn.
· 70% of men ages 18-34 visit a porn site in a typical month
· 1/6 women are addicted to porn.
· 10-14 billion dollars are spent on porn annually – the same amount the US Government typically spends on foreign aid.
· Every second, 28,258 people view porn.
This use to be a leadership topic solely for men. No longer.
On a floor of 60 people:
· 10 women are addicted to porn.
· 42 men are addicted to porn.
If you’re overlooking this as something “everyone struggles with” you are apart of the problem. If you don’t think it exists, you are ignorant. If you think it’s okay, you need to rethink Jesus. So, how can we be pursuing people deeper and more authentically?
1. We need to pursue people in a deeper and more loving way. I wrote about it in my last blog, but I would like to expand on it again. If we don’t know which one of your friends has been sexually assaulted, addicted to porn, or suffer from depression, we either are terrible friends or we’re not pursuing people in deep authentic love. I’d go with the latter instead of the former. However, if you do know whom these people are you better be pursuing them.
This doesn’t mean we force counsel our friends, it doesn’t mean we have awkward encounters where we confront them; it means we actively pursue real community (both shoulder to shoulder and face to face time) with those we love. We need to be spending time with our friends and putting ourselves in positions of vulnerability. By spending time, seeking Jesus together, praying with one another and for one another, and actively seek constant redemption together, then these things will be uncovered.
2. We constantly must be thinking of these things. It can be depressing, but we have hope! These three horrifying stats don’t even include drugs and alcohol abuse. I bring these up to show you that just because we’re at a Christian school doesn’t mean everyone has fallen into grace and healing. If we understand and embrace these concepts, we can love people in a more enriching and authentic way.
3. Not everyone at Biola is a Christian. This is hard to write, it’s harder to accept, and it’s controversial but no one I’ve talked to disagreed. Yes, we sign an admission of faith when we enroll. But that doesn’t mean people have really met the real Jesus.
One study done by a professor in the biblical-studies department said his average class surveys of upper classman shows that less than 40% go to church consistently, less than that are involved in a ministry or community group.
Not everyone at our school has been redeemed by Christ’s love and sacrifice at the cross. There are sleepy Christians, lukewarm individuals, and people who are choosing to live in habitual sins, among other things.
None of these things show that someone has died to their sins and been made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2). In fact, it’s the opposite. I think back to 1 John 2, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Christ’s attributes will reflected in us if we are passionately following him. Living in habitual sin, lukewarm lifestyles, or those who choose not to actively live out their faith are living by the world’s standards, not Christ.
4. We need to push people to Jesus by reflecting His attributes. We need to push people to go chapel, go to ministries on campus, and most importantly, go to church. We need to be mentors and be mentored. We need to seek the scriptures passionately and with a zeal to learn from Christ and see how the church and the apostles lived their life. We need to be tough – but in love and grace – and rebuke our fellow Biolians to love Jesus! There is nothing wrong with that! Some need a quick kick to the batteries, some need a shoulder to cry out, but we all need something.
My greatest hope is that we all become preachers of the Gospel message to fellow Christians, especially at our school. Again, know your audience and know who needs what kind of encouragement, but never flee or grow tired from doing what is good (2 Thessalonians 3:13).
This blog is meant to be a source of gospel-driven truth that pushes all of us in conviction towards Jesus – myself included. They are heavy stats, heavy facts, and hard to accept. But we need to – our communities are in dire need for leadership to step up and lead the way to redemption through Christ and His grace.
I’ll never forget one of the key conversations that started transforming my mind to start thinking differently about friendships.
I was sitting outside the Student Union Building with my friends Taelor and Jean, both sisters whom love Jesus dearly and were always kicking my sorry butt about stuff I did.
While our conversation was in essence about a girl I was interested at the time, it revolutionized my thinking about friendships and what I value in people.
Taelor quipped, “So, tell me why you are interested in her?”
I answered, “Well, she’s going overseas to go to a Bible school and go on a mission trip. That’s pretty cool. She’s funny. We get along pretty well. She likes the same stuff in Portland…and she’s from Portland so that’s all good!”
Taelor quipped again, “No, I want to knowthe deeper things.”
I had no answer…and Taelor knew I wouldn’t. She told me to get back to her when I could…and I never was able to. In fact, she made me realize that past being an extremely attractive girl who loves Jesus, there wasn’t much knowledge or basis for me to be interested in aforementioned girl.
At this point in my life, I had spent nearly two years living in a dorm. By God’s grace, I was blessed to be involved with the Mosaic community of South Horton, where a lot of my authentic and deep-rooted friendships have come from. Some of my best friends – brothers – who keep me accountable, challenge me, rebuke me, love on me, all hail from Mosaic.
But there was a false dichotomy growing in my mind between what a real community looks like and what a shallow community looks like.
In a nutshell:
Real community mirrors and reflects the image of Jesus, His life and testimony, and the gospel message of the cross.
Real community and real friendships meant understanding that I can’t have 50. Jesus had three close friends and a lot of relationships.
Real community means knowing people at a deep level where you can pray, love, rebuke, challenge, uphold, weep with, and walk both the valleys and mountain tops with.
We can’t have 50 best friends. If you look at Jesus and His life, He keeps three friends close to his vest: Peter, James, and John. Three specific scriptural instances show that He brought these disciples along for special purposes, training, and bonding: the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:35-43), the Transfiguration (Matthew 17), and the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). Jesus was both a teacher and brother to them. We need to do both these roles with our friends. He rebuked them (Matthew 16:23) and counted on them to pray for Him in the garden before He was given up. Of course, by God’s grace, we won’t fail and fall asleep when our friends ask us to do the same.
We need to understand inner circle friendships, outer circle friendships, and floater relationships. Based on Jesus and His inner circle, it’s important to look at some of His important outer circle friendships and understand the difference. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are three people Jesus sacrificed for – albeit it not on a daily basis. However, He had an active presence in their life, came to them in a time of need (Lazarus, John 11), and provided, taught, and challenged them (Luke 10:38-42).
Who are your inner circle friends? I have 5 guys in my Biola community who I can tangibly sacrifice for. After Jesus, they are my family. If they are sick, in need of a ride, need a meal covered, need a favor done; I will bend over backwards to do it. If they needed a kidney, I would give it. This is at all costs. If they were being hurt or harassed, I would do everything in my power to defend them, by God’s grace, even at the cost of my life. That’s what love is. I don’t say this to brag or put myself up on a grand stage, I simply say this because this is exactly what Jesus did and we are called to model our lives after Him.
Next, who are your outer circle friends? My outer circle is mixed with men and women who I do my best to sacrifice for. I can’t always promise them I will be at everything they invite me to, I can’t always drop everything on my plate to rush to their side, but I will cut back as much as possible to make time for them, because I care and love them. It sounds harsh, but it’s simply realistic. You only have so much emotional investments available to cash in on. Psychologically, sociologically, and physically, you can only be in so many places at so many times, and you can only have your heart and soul with so many people, at so many times. If you stretch yourself too thin – which I used to be guilty of, all the time – you have to sacrifice something…and it usually ends up to be your relationship with Jesus.
It’s important to realize that you can’t touch base with everyone. This is what I call floater friends. Floater friends are people you have open relationships with, who you would love to sit down and chat with, but your worlds never collide often enough to do so. I have the perfect example of this. I have two friends, both people I spent considerable amounts of time with freshman year here at Biola. Recently, I’ve run into them quite a bit and they’ve asked to hang out. It’s awful, but it just isn’t always plausible. We all put in 40-70 hour weeks as college students (some more productive hours than others, but I digress…). However, both have made a concentrated effort to get together, and so because I found (and they found) an agreeable time in the next week, we’re shooting to get together. These friends are people I still care about – as we’re called to – but I won’t be able to sacrifice for as much as I would like. I certainly spend time praying for them when I hear they are in need, I do my best to provide aid when I can, but realistically, I had to see I can’t act like I can carry every detail about them on my shoulders, just as they can’t carry mine.
We need to know our friends at a deeper level than their Facebook info, their major and hometown, and what time they can meet at the Café for dinner. I wrote this in my last post, but if you can’t tell me your “best friends” deepest struggles because you don’t know them, then they aren’t your best friends. Just because you go to the Café with them every Sunday, hit up the new Navy Seal movie premier with them on a Thursday, go to Disneyland with them and pray with them a few times a week, doesn’t mean you’re best friends. It can but often times it doesn’t. This is especially true of guys. Stop spending so much shoulder-to-shoulder time and do the awkward thing of having face-to-face time. Girls, learn that face-to-face time is wonderful, but so is going to the movies or shopping and goofing around. We need balance.
Know which one of your inner and outer circle friends struggles with porn, has an eating disorder, has been a sexual assault victim in the past – or present, wrestling with homosexuality, drugs, or alcohol abuse, doesn’t talk to their parents, has daddy issues, has mama boy syndrome, plays too many video games, gossips about their friends, etc. If you don’t know this about them, and they don’t know your deepest darkest secrets, and they are your best friends you need to realize you have issues to resolve. If you’re hiding these problems from them or hiding from their problems, more than likely you’re also hiding from God and hiding from the things He is calling you to.
If you do know these things, you know how to pray, provide, rebuke, pursue, and love them better.
So, what should you do?
Pray, seek, and write out your friend groups. Divide them into inner and outer circles. Know your limitations and commitments.
Get together with your friends, one by one. Find out how you can love and pursue them deeper. For guys, this will be awkward and miserable. For girls, you have to make sure they don’t give you a shallow and Christianese response. Dig deeper!
Never dispose of your friends at sacrifice for your career, success, or ministry. I will post a more detailed blog about this and other leadership ideas soon. One of the sweetest things God has created is to be in community. Never sacrifice it.
Find a church, be trained, raised up, and pursued and loved deeper! This will be a reoccurring theme in my blog posts. Find a church full of people, races, and perspectives that differ from yours – except the theology of course. Get involved in ministries, community or home groups, and find a mentor. It’s awkward at first, but totally worth it. For more, refer to the previous blog.
My plea and prayer is this: that by God’s grace, you will desire to love and pursue your friends deeper because Jesus loves and pursues you deeply, that you won’t hide from your friends or our God, and that we will carry the burdens of each other as the church are called to.
I have been rightfully accused of being the exact person I just spent time to write about. I’ll admit that. I was a terrible and shallow friend, flaky at best, and never to be counted on. By God’s grace, I believe I have been smacked in the face enough to learn I had burned enough bridges. I lost some friends, some friends pulled me a long, and all together, my relationship with Christ has been changed forever. I desire this for you.
I’m not an expert in anything I’m writing about, simply a sinful person who has been redeemed and is constantly being sanctified by Christ’s love, mercy, and grace, and have a deep desire for you to experience the same thing.