A person is in trouble. One friend says they must be guilty of something because the trouble wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t done something wrong to deserve it. Another friend says that they will stand by them when the trouble comes. A third friend says that they will help them through this troubled time. A fourth friend says that they will call in a few favours so that the trouble will go away.
Which of these friends are right and true and good; which of these friends would you consider the friend you would like to have and the friend you would like to be? There is no right or wrong answer – they are all right and all wrong because even though we don’t know what the trouble is, we recognise that we allow one friend closer to our hearts than another friend – on a scale of friends and acquaintances each one will do and say what they have been given the right to do or say in the person’s life. There are those we feel safe with and those we don’t feel safe with. There are those who we will allow to speak into our lives to a significant degree and there are those who we will listen to without taking to heart what is being said. It may be that the better friend would tell us to live with the consequences of a stupid action because we have not learned from previous experience or the better friend could be the one who will do all they can do to help us deal with a situation that is outside of our ability to deal with, but either way they will only be able to say and do what we give them the right to say or do.
The truest friend though is the one that will do whatever they need to do because they know that this is how God has called them to respond to this particular need in this particular moment. The truest friend is the one who walks closely with God and will help us to walk intimately with God. The truest friend is the one who can speak honestly about our faults and our failures because we trust them enough with ourselves to allow them into our hidden bits without fear that they want to hold us ransom in our moment of weakness or exert power over us.
James has a beautiful way of calling us all to be true friends; to be brothers and sisters born of God and brought together in the family of Christ. In all areas of life we are called to allow those we are in a relationship of trust with to be a part of our troubles because we need their wisdom and the wisdom of God; to be a part of our celebrations because we need them to help us appreciate the value of the celebration and to help us give expression to that; to be a part of our weakness because we need them to surround us with the love that brings healing, the love that flows from the healing love of God. We are to be that friend because that is what it means to be righteous, and with God’s help we can.