Clergy Corner: A friend in high places

I■ By Susan Beckett / Contributed

n 1964 Barbra Streisand starred in the Broadway musical “Funny Girl” and introduced what was to become her signature song – “People.” I find one of the lines in the song to be profoundly true: “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” I think that statement is probably the understatement of the century!
Proverbs 17:17 tells us that “A friend loves at all times…” People like that are scarce for sure but extremely valuable and worth their weight in gold. I’ve found that a good friendship is much like a good marriage: “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” We were created to be social creatures and we function best with friends.
A true friendship is a partnership where persons can share their dreams, challenges, problems, disappointments – they encourage, cheer, inspire, motivate, validate, and console. Only a hermit-type person wouldn’t want all that. As Charles Swindoll has said, “I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.”
How many remember the movie “Cast Away?” The 2000 drama starred Tom Hanks as a FedEx employee stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes. His character becomes fast friends for the next four years with a Wilson volleyball that washes up on shore. He even names the volleyball “Wilson.”
The “Wilson” character was actually created by a screenwriter doing research for the movie. He chose to strand himself for a week on an isolated beach, forcing himself to search for water, food, shelter, etc. A volleyball happened to wash up on shore while he was there (which he hung onto) and this was the inspiration for the film’s volleyball companion. The screenwriter realized everyone needs friends! Everyone!!
Jesus was accused by the religious community of his day of being a “friend of tax collectors and other sinners.” Imagine that – Jesus made friends with people who weren’t perfect. Sinners! Thank goodness for us that he did. We can update that verse a bit and say that Jesus had friends who were stay-at-home moms and dog walkers, contractors and lawyers, bartenders and photographers.
At one point in his ministry, Jesus turned to his disciples and told them, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And then he did exactly that. Romans 5:7-8 (NIV) brings even more clarity to that rich verse: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
I have made incredible friendships over the years – many that I will cherish for years and years to come, but I never want to take for granted the one friend who died for me – and for you! The way I figure it, Jesus was an amazing gift from God and so are my friends!

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