Written By Leslie Koh, Singapore
I’ve not been a good friend to some of my closest friends. I’ve betrayed one, angered another, and offended a third (twice).
I betrayed the first by cutting him out of my life because of someone else (long story). I angered the second by being totally insensitive to his feelings and embarrassing him in public (also a long story). And I offended the third by condemning his actions, thinking I was morally superior.
Today, they’re still my friends. And they’ll still stick by me (I believe), even though I’ve been, at some point, one of the biggest jerks to them.
The Bible contains many verses about friendship and the value of a true friend. Some talk about how a friend loves for all times (Proverbs 17:17), sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), and is willing to lay down his life for another (John 15:13). More often than not, the definition of a true friend is someone who would stick by us thick and thin, through good and bad, in sun and in rain etc.
I’d like to add one more trait—which the Bible talks about but maybe not in this context—a true friend is one who forgives.
A true friend is someone who values a friendship—and his friend—so much that he is willing to put aside his own feelings, principles, and perhaps dignity for the sake of the person who has hurt him. Having been betrayed or offended, he is still willing to forgive and forget, and accept his errant friend into his world—and his heart. He is ready to continue where they left off, and to rebuild a relationship that had been marred or destroyed, not holding what had happened against his friend.
My friends were deeply affected by what I did to them. They were perplexed, offended, and hurt by what I did. My transgressions weren’t something they could brush off easily. My words and actions cut deep, and they reflected my carelessness with my words, my insensitivity to their feelings, and my arrogance.
Yet they were willing to forgive me when I realized my error and apologized. These guys were not only willing to sacrifice their time and energy for me, but even more importantly, they were also willing to sacrifice their (hurt) feelings for me. That means more to me than anything else, knowing that it is sometimes harder to forgive someone than to give him something. In a way, in putting my interests before theirs and forgoing their justified anger, my friends had laid down their lives for me.
Not only that, not one of them has ever mentioned my sin against them or reminded me about how I had nearly thrown away years of friendship over a careless word or action. Their forgiveness was total.
Kind of reminds you of Someone, doesn’t it?
It’s hard to think about all this, and not be grateful for the forgiveness of my true friends on earth. And it’s even harder not to be grateful for the forgiveness of a True Friend in heaven, who, despite what I had done (and sometimes still do), still calls me His friend. I am reminded of how this True Friend does not hold my past against me, nor will He remind me about what I did wrong. Instead, He just wants me to repent of my sin, and to continue building our friendship.
My challenge, as I see it, is to respond to Him, to avoid hurting Him, and to be a friend to others just like He has been to me. Can I forgive others as I have been forgiven? Can I be big-hearted as my friends have been? Will I show others mercy, just as much mercy has been extended to me? Can I be true friend, to Jesus as well as to others?
True love is not one that merely gives, but forgives.