I've had the opportunity to make a new friend over the past few months. Sometimes as a 57 year old you wonder if you're even capable of making new friends, but it is possible. To be honest, this guy isn't someone I thought I'd ever be good friends with even though I've known him for a long time. He always seemed a little uptight and not very grace oriented. I was typically uncomfortable around him, kept him at a distance, sort of thought he came across somewhat judgmental about my behavior. I also noticed that some of my other friends didn't really like this guy either so I felt rather justified and content to essentially disregard him.
I guess it was the Holy Spirit who prompted me one day to push in to this relationship a little deeper despite my fear, past unwillingness, and current problems (actually I'm certain it was the Holy Spirit). And now I can truly say I'm so glad the Spirit pushed me to do that! I soon discovered that this guy truly loved me and wanted only the best for me. Sure, maybe his style wasn't as comfortable to me as I have become accustomed to, but nevertheless his care for me and the condition of my soul is unquestionably genuine, pure, and gracious. He's challenged me to examine my heart, my speech, and my behavior. It was funny that every time he did challenge me I began to again have these expectations that he would be the rude, offensive, legalistic guy I always thought he would be. But each and every time he proved to be nothing other than loving, compassionate, and encouraging.
Now don't get me wrong, he doesn't mind calling sin what it is ... sin! He doesn't hold back on any punch. He's never afraid to warn me about the tendency of my own heart to be deceived. He's quick to call me out on the inconsistency between what I profess to be as a Christian and what I actually do. He's not hesitant to point out my arrogance, unbelief, presumptuousness, prejudice, impatience, selfishness, double-mindedness, pride, and much more. He's quick to remind me that such behaviors and attitudes have consequences. But again, he always does son in a manner that reminds me that Christ has so much more to offer, that He is my only true hope and love, that He is my loving and sufficient King!
This new friend is James ... the half-brother of Jesus. I was truly nervous about getting to know him during the recent sermon series we just concluded. But I'm now willing to say James is a great friend and I hope you become great friends with him, too.
But he's also led me to consider how good a friend I am to others. I long to be the kind of friend to others that James has become to me ... willing to delve deeply into someone's life and challenge their sinful, prideful, adulterous hearts yet do so in a way that is deeply rooted in the grace of the Gospel. Does someone you know need that kind of friend? Would you be willing to be that friend? Our friend, James, has shown us the way.