Introduction - Faithful Friends Series
From The Caring Heart with Dr. Joyce from Spokane Washington

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (St. John 15:12-13).

Why focus on friendships? In our world today, in our current cultural milieu, doesn’t “everybody” have friends? Isn’t friendship, as talked about on mass media, taken for granted?

Sure, for many blessed people, friendship is not an issue. They are settled down enjoying a number of good friends as the years go by. But, for many others, friendships are sparse, fleeting, and superficial. Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “However rare true love may be; it is less so than true friendship.” I was told that, around Spokane where I live, people who live alone often pay seventy five dollars to have someone come for three hours just to have someone to play cards with and to talk to. Where are these peoples’ friends, their families? Hundreds of Spokane elderly have only the Welcome Wagon delivery people to chat briefly with as they receive their one meal per day. In years past, neighboring afforded people a real sense of community, with neighbors chatting on front porches during lazy summer evenings. Neighbors needed each other in a thousand different ways, but now most everyone goes to some company or organization to get services rendered. Then there are the situational friendships. When the situation changes, the friends never bother to contact one another ever again. The friendship was one of convenience, not authenticity. Oh, how about the churches? Seems that friendliness depends upon the church. As one long-time church lady once expressed her experience, “When you are out the door, you are on your own.” My experience has sadly been that when you are in the door you are on your own also. Fellowship means you sit in a large room with lots of strangers, who you will never really know, and who will “look past you” except for the greeter’s handshake. Church life is mainly about doctrine and worship of God, but does not ordinarily include members really getting to know one another and connecting outside of their Christian beliefs and practices. Ageism can come into the picture, too. My brother maintains that “the older you get, the more invisible you are.”

How about the animals? How do they fit in this dismal picture of modern-day friendship I have elaborated upon? Well, many pets are wonderfully taken care of and related to, enjoying ongoing, nurturant, healthy friendships, with their people to the point of being full family members, deeply cherished (like dogs Shauna and Lucy who are cozy with me here right now). Lucky horses are just doted on, having every need and desire being met by adoring owners (especially little girls with their first horses or ponies).

But, tragically, there are innumerable pets who do not have owners that are really friends. These pets are ignored, left for long periods in uncomfortable situations, and not socially and emotionally nurtured. Meanness and other abuses are often part of their ongoing experiences. A couple of years ago I noticed a pitiful dog chained up near a small dog house, with awful-looking people food scraps nearby, As time passed, I would see that dog, lonely and exposed to all sorts of weather, next to the huge, luxurious house that was being built by Slavic people. I called the humane society, but they couldn’t, or wouldn’t try to intervene. The owner was unconcerned, when I spoke briefly to him one time. So, I tried to be friendly to the dog when we walked our horses by the place. I surely did pray for that dog. I hurt very much for him or her. The poor dog is still out there, maybe not all the time now.

Our very definition of friendship seems very broad and fuzzy now days. For example, a person can have all these “friends” on Facebook, who are identities one will probably never meet in person, and who have no real commitment to one another whatsoever. Facebook communication is usually very superficial and impersonal, although some problems are “Ooed and Awed” over. Then, too, I received a very nice Christmas card from an animal charity yesterday. It read “from your friends at ….. horse rescue.” Well, I send them money, and I surely value their work for the horses, but I don’t know them and they don’t know me. Friends? It seems that they do appreciate the money assistance.

So many societal problems are related to the lack, or paucity, of meaningful relationships, be they friendships, marriages, or parent and child. For example, alcoholism, drug addiction, bullying, depression, crime, and suicide are epidemic. At the “bottom of the barrel,” the poor, innocent, vulnerable animals are really harmed terribly and massively. To help the animals, we need to “fix the people!!”

The dictionary definition of “friend” that I like the best is that a friend is a person with whom one is on intimate terms and for whom one feels a warm affection. An acquaintance, on the other hand, is someone known about but with whom one is not on intimate terms. Friends have a sense of commitment, and look forward to future times of getting together and connecting, Acquaintances do not. According to the above Bible verse, a friend is someone who will lay down his or her life for you and me. Wow! That’s real caring! That’s real commitment! A TRUE FRIEND IS SOMEONE YOU CAN COUNT ON TO NOT “LET YOU DOWN.”

As Christians, part of our serving Jesus in life should be to build faithful friend networks with our fellow humans and our precious animals. Great observers and thinkers have shown that both humans and other animals need ongoing social lives with compatible others for their well-being. If we don’t cooperate and work with the way God created us to be, there are PROBLEMS.

Aristotle, the great thinker of antiquity, said, “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.”

COPYRIGHT – 2016 - Dr. Joyce The Caring Heart

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