Making Friends and Changing Lives

I’ve been reading the classic novel East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck considered it to be his masterpiece, and many others agreed. It’s set in the years that span the turning of the 19th and 20th centuries though it’s based on Genesis 4, the Cain and Abel story. But that’s not why I mention it. I mention it because of the description the narrator in the book gives to one of the characters, specifically his mother, Olive. He says Olive had a distinctive way of dealing with facts that didn’t fit into her notion of how things were. She “obliterated them by refusing to believe in them.” These “nonexistent realities” included such varied things as airplanes and World War I.  She had no place in her thoughts for either, that is, until circumstances forced her to confront both.

I mention Olive and her way of dealing with airplanes because we have a similar way of dealing with one of our external realities. For us it’s people. We have long standing close friendships in Jesup. We like our friends. We enjoy being with them in our Sunday Morning Connection Groups. We meet them for lunch or for shopping. We have our circle. And then someone new arrives. They sit next to us in our Bible Study group. We talk about work, the kids, and then get around to the lesson. We’re friendly. Then church is over, we head for lunch, and those people become for us one of Olive’s external realities. They no longer exist. We go on with our circle of friends and the newcomers (what were their names again?) fade. When you meet your friends for lunch you don’t think of inviting them. You don’t call them to see how they are doing or to say hello.  They come back, a time or two, some for a good while even, and then they simply fade away. They’re an airplane or something else faraway and unreal. An external to our group reality.

When Jesus chose his disciples he chose them “that they might be with him.”  When two curious seekers asked him where he lived he said, “Come see for yourself,” and invited them in for the day. He later said to them, “I now call you friends.” Jesus’ strategy for changing the world was to pull people close and make them his friends. It’s our strategy too. But you have to help. You have to open your friendship circle to new people. They cannot remain left out. You must intentionally pull them close.

I once heard someone say, “No one comes to church to get involved but no one stays in church unless they do.” Involved in what? Ministries, making a difference in some way. But most importantly, friendships. It’s up to you to make friends for Christ’s sake.