I’ve heard my dad tell the story often. When he was a boy, the family took a vacation to Yellowstone Park. If you have ever been to Yellowstone, or to most any area known to have bears, you have seen the signs everywhere: “Do Not Feed The Bears.” This is no secret.
For whatever reason – maybe he didn’t see the signs, maybe he believed it wasn’t all that serious – my great-grandfather decided not to heed that warning. They stopped the car to watch the bears, and he thought it was a good idea to toss out a cookie. That’s “bears” plural and “cookie” singular; he threw one cookie for two bears. It was not his finest hour on a number of levels. The end result was an angry bear shaking the car and a rapid getaway.
There are many humorous stories revolving around people who encounter bears. One tale is of two friends on a hike in the woods who had promised to assist each other if they met danger. They had not gone far when they saw a bear coming toward them. There was no time to flee. One of them, being very active, sprang up a tree; the other, seeing that, threw himself flat on the ground and played dead. The bear walked up to him and spent some time smelling him, but ultimately he went on his way.
When he was out of sight and hearing, the hero from the tree called out, “Well, what did the bear say to you? He seemed to whisper to you very closely.” “He did,” replied the other, “and he gave me some good advice. Never associate with a scoundrel who will desert his friend!”
Of course, the point is to make us consider: what is a friend? There will always be many definitions. All of us likely have our own ideas about the subject. There are some things, however, that we can all agree upon.
- A friend is your friend when things go wrong – perhaps, especially when things go wrong – as well as when all is right.
- A true friend does not make critical statements about you to others.
- A real friend will not listen while others make uncomplimentary remarks about you.
- A friend is someone you can call in the middle of the night when you have car trouble and they come, even though it is 100 miles away and raining, and they were asleep.
- A friend is there to support you when your loved ones are sick or dying.
- A friend is someone who knows all of your flaws, and yet loves you anyway – warts and all.
Jesus is the best friend you and I will ever have. There is no record of him abandoning anyone. He was forsaken, but he did not forsake others. The actions and words of Christ were pure and right toward all people. We sometimes sing hymns about that: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” or “There’s Not a Friend Like the Lowly Jesus,” for example.
We should be his friends in return. He offers us that opportunity. As he said to the apostles, No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends. What does it mean to be Jesus’ friend? You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:14-15).
Friends of Jesus Christ! What a blessing! But friends of Jesus keep his commandments. Friends of Jesus do no forsake – they are loyal to him.
It is good for us to have true friends. I don’t know what we would do without him. But even the closest of our earthly friends can do very little for our salvation. There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. May we long for his friendship.