Making Friends
8/26/2015 9:18:10 AM by: Charlotte S. Snead

On Wednesday nights here at this church, I work with the older elementary girls in our kids program. Each month, they can earn badges, similar to scouts. Last month our badge was “Friendship,” and we learned what it takes to be a good friend.

Our memory verse was from Ecclesiastes:  “Two are better than one, for they have a better return for their work. If one falls down, the other can help him up.” The girls related to that—you remember when you were a kid and Mom said, “You can’t go out to play until your room is clean!” Your friend wanted you to come outside and play, so she pitched in and helped. The work went fast, you even had a giggle or two, and in no time you were done, dashing out of the house, calling back: “All clean, Mom, see you later.”

We looked at a story everyone knows. Someone was trying to trick Jesus—they were always trying to trap him because the religious crowd was determined to put a stop to this threat to their turf. They wanted to get evidence he was a blasphemer and a fraud so they could kill him. This lawyer (some things never change) wanted to trap Jesus, so he asked him a religious question: “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus trumped the guy by asking him what the Law, the Old Testament Scriptures He came to earth to fulfill, said. Do you know the story? The lawyer replied: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commended him on his Scriptural response, but the guy felt so showed up that he followed with another question: “Who is my neighbor?”

Now we get to “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey says. Jesus, as he was wont to do, told a teaching story, a parable, like Aesop’s Fables. In this story a man was traveling a desolate road—he must have gotten a late start, because robbers fell upon him, beat him horribly and took all he had, leaving him to die. Do you remember? A priest hurried by, and then a seminary professor, but they were too busy, too preoccupied, too fearful to stop and help the poor man. Then this guy came by, poured wine in his wounds—which was the antibiotic treatment of choice, the alcohol content in the wine cleansed the wound—and bandaged him up. He put him on his own donkey and probably walked himself to the nearest town. He got him a room in an inn, and paid the innkeeper to look in on him, bring him food and whatever he needed. Well the kicker was that this man who rescued him was of an outcast race, a group of people who had gotten their doctrine wrong, who were not pure Jews, a lowly Samaritan. Then Jesus simply asked: Who was the man’s neighbor? The lawyer who came to trap him must have choked on Jesus’ trap, because he had to admit that the outcast who had done righteousness, who had obeyed Scripture by showing mercy, had to be the neighbor, and not the self-righteous, hypocritical church folks. The Master simply stated the obvious: “Go, and do likewise.”

My dad was in the military, and I know it is hard to make friends when you move. The Master provides us with a vital key to being a neighbor in this popular story. Who was the neighbor? What did he do? So often when we have to disrupt our lives and follow our husbands or our jobs and move to a new place, we wait for others to be friendly to us, and we complain when they are not. But the Good Samaritan went out of his way to show mercy, to help another. He got involved in someone else’s life.

MOPS is whatever you make it to be. You can come twice a month, have free childcare and some instruction or some fun, and that is OK. But if you want to have friends, you need to be involved in other people’s lives. That doesn’t mean give them your donkey—although it might mean offering them a ride—but it does mean you have to extend yourself a bit. We can share in our discussion groups—our goal is that MOPS is a Safe Place where you can be real, admit your failings and find strength and comfort in the companionship of others who have also failed. But you can sit in your discussion groups, be a phony perfect person and never get the forgiveness and comfort we all crave when we have blown it.

MOPS is a ready-made Friendship Center, but to get the most out of MOPS, you need to participate. Go to as many play-dates as you can; your kids will develop friendships that will change their lives while you get out of the house. The kids learn how to cooperate with other kids—yes, you will have to intervene: Johnny will be bopped on the head and Suzie will have her dolly ripped out of her arms—that is part of learning how to be a friend. But for the most part the children will amuse each other while moms get out of the house, and enjoy a cup of coffee and some adult conversation.  Also, if you can find child-care, go to Moms nights out, have fun with adult friends and get to know them better.(If child care is a problem for enough of you, we can find an adult and teens who want to earn some money and open up the church nursery for a collection among you.)

When my grandson made the huge leap from a small private school to the public middle school, and he was terrified. I told him: “Look, you are a neat guy. You are funny and attractive; you are a guy everyone will want to have as a friend. Just go to school and be yourself, be nice to people and they will want to be your friend.”  Before it was even October, as we drove away from the school, he had the window down and his arm and head out, responding to kids hollering: “Bye, KJ, see you tomorrow.”

A wise man (Solomon) once said: “To have a friend, you must be a friend.” Go, and do likewise.

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