Friends and enemies

What makes a friend a friend?  What makes an enemy an enemy?   What if your friend turned out to be your enemy?   What if your enemy turned out to be your friend?   Would you look at friendships differently?  If you were honest, I’m sure you would.  Would it make you wonder if all future enemies were perhaps not as bad as you originally judged?  Perhaps they are just delayed friendships?

If I asked you to name your closest friends, you would have no problem producing a list of names.  But is that list accurate?  Are they really your closest friends?  Why do you think they are?  Your answer would have to be connected to what you think makes a friend a friend.  Is a friend someone who likes you?  Someone who makes you laugh?  Someone who agrees with you?  Someone who says what you want to hear?   Isn’t that generally who we surround ourselves with?

If I asked you to name your enemies, hopefully that list would be a lot shorter.   I’m sure you would have no problem producing that list either.  We tend to know who is not a fan of ours.  But is that list accurate?  Are they really your enemy?   Why do you think they are?  Your answer would have to be connected to what you think makes an enemy an enemy.  Is an enemy someone who does not like you?  Someone who makes you angry?  Someone who disagrees with you?  Someone who says what you do not want to hear?   Isn’t that generally who we despise?

If I asked you to name Jesus’ closest friends, the disciples would be an obvious correct answer.  If you were biblically literate, you would specifically mention John or Peter as those two are found in His inner circle repeatedly throughout the gospels.  Extra points for knowing this!

If I asked you to name Jesus’ enemies, even if you were biblically illiterate you would obviously mention the devil and Judas, infamous for betraying Christ unto death.

But are your answers actually correct?   Was Peter really Jesus’ best friend?  Was Judas really His worst enemy?   It is easy to think so based on our elementary standard of what it means to be a friend or what it takes to be an enemy.  But would you believe that Jesus actually considered Peter (briefly) to be His enemy and even referred to Judas as His friend, even while  Judas was in the act of betraying Him? Either Jesus has no idea what a true friendship is, or our definition needs some work.

Peter had left everything to follow Jesus.  Literally everything.  For three entire years He had followed Jesus all over Jerusalem.  When they needed to cross the Sea of Galilee, they used Peter’s boat.  In those three years, Peter had spent many a night in prison as a result of his friendship with Jesus.  When Jesus predicted that someone would betray Him, Peter was the first person to stand up and publicly declare it would not be him.  When Jesus went to officially institute the Catholic (universal) Church, it was Peter to whom He turned and made it’s first Pope.  When Jesus was actually being arrested, Peter was the only one who drew his sword in an attempt to defend his friend.  If you had to guess, Peter would be an obvious nominee for Jesus’  “Friend of the year” Dundee award.  And yet, we find in this passage – Jesus’ assessment was quite different:

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem  and suffer many things  at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law,  and that he must be killed  and on the third day  be raised to life.  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”  Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” – Matthew 16:21-23

Three years of service and he calls his “friend” Satan and tells him to get lost.  Apparently Jesus needs some help in the Public Relations department.  This is NOT how most future kings are supposed to handle your supporters.

Judas, like Peter, was hand picked to be one of Jesus’ disciples.  Nine times in the Gospels  Judas is known and listed as “one of the twelve”.   In fact, so trusted was Judas in the inner circle that we are told he was the one who “had the money box”. (John 12:6)  In other words, He was Jesus’ accountant.  If there was to be a betrayal, no one would have suspected Judas.  Other than Jesus, who knew from the beginning, Judas would not have been on anyone’s betrayal radar.  That is the problem with betrayal though, it seems to always be the person you least expect.  Notice how Jesus treats the one who would be responsible for not only His arrest, but ultimately His death:

“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.  Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.” – Matthew 26:47-50

Though He could have, Jesus did not stop the armed posse coming to arrest Him.  Though He could have, Jesus did not deny who He was.  Though He could have, Jesus could have given a few choice words to his soon-to-be-fired accountant.  He did not even stop Judas’ affectionate greeting – one that would eventually be known as “the kiss of death.”  In fact, in the midst of the worst betrayal known to man, Jesus actually calls him “Friend.”   Wow!

What makes a friend a friend?  What makes an enemy an enemy?   Is your standard of friendship the same as Christ’s?   For Him, His friends were those who helped Him accomplish what God put Him on earth to do.  His enemies were those who tried to stop Him from doing God’s will.   Who are your friends?  Do they encourage you in your relationship with God?  Do they challenge you to know Him better and love Him more?   Who are your enemies?  Do you need to reevaluate that list?

I’m grateful that I have some really good friends in my life – friends that ask me the hard questions.  Friends that question my motives.  Friends that call me out on certain behaviors.  Friends that hold me accountable for my lifestyle.  Friends that want to know how I am truly living – even when they aren’t there to see it.  Friends that do not care if I like them or not.  Friends that are willing to sacrifice the friendship for the sake of what is right.   Man, I hate the occasional interrogations I receive from these friends.  Some days they feel more like my enemies.  And then I realize that their kiss of death is exactly what I need.

As Oscar Wilde has noted, “True friends stab you in the front.”