Tag: Character

Enriching Friendships

Strong friendships are one of the greatest joys of life. However, some people are overly self-conscious and shy away from those who could be their friends. Some open themselves up to only a small circle of friends. Some put their friends through a lot of difficulty and pain. And some are outgoing toward everyone, but never cultivate any close relationships.

 

How can you learn to develop strong, healthy friendships? God’s Word has particularly deep insight concerning human relationships. And it is full of advice on building a high-quality social life.

 

Loving Friendships

 

  1. How early in human history did God recognize the need for companionship? Genesis 2:18.

 

Our Creator made us to need relationships. God created specific relationships in the family. But He also designed us to need relationships outside of our families. These relationships help us become better human beings, stronger in character and more like the loving God in His thinking. Unlike family connections, which we cannot choose, we can choose our friends.

 

  1. What biblical principle explains how we should treat others? Galatians 5:14; Matthew 22:37-40. Does this include our enemies? Matthew 5:43-47.

 

Loving another person in the same way that you love yourself is a huge challenge. But this command governs our treatment of all other human beings. If you lack solid friendships, examine yourself. How good are you at putting others’ needs ahead of your own?

 

It is natural to have some friendships that are deeper than others. Though there are levels of friendship, they all must be based on love: unselfish, outgoing concern.

 

Proverbs 18:24 states, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly ….” The King James Version contains a mistranslation of this portion of the verse. The Revised Standard Version reads: “There are friends who pretend to be friends ….” It takes more than just putting on a show of friendship to develop strong relationships. It takes being a person who shows others that their opinions, needs, and desires matter to you; that you value their companionship. It takes a desire to love them the way you love yourself. This attracts others to you.

 

  1. Did Christ say there was an even greater love in a friendship than loving as you love yourself? John 15:13.

 

 

This kind of love goes beyond the love you have for yourself. It means even dying for your friend if necessary. In everyday application, it refers to putting your friend’s needs above your own. Do you have friends like that? Are you a friend like that?

 

Other Qualities of Good Friendships

 

  1. What else builds friendships? Proverbs 14:20; 19:4.

Superficial things draw people to us. But these proverbs aren’t saying we should seek material wealth to draw more friends to us. The word for wealth in Proverbs 19:4 can mean anything from material possessions to (My Favorite) wealth of mind and/or character. This Hebrew word is also used in Proverbs 13:7, which states that even those with nothing physically can have “riches.”

 

If you are rich in character, your personality will attract others. Proverbs 19:6 states that “every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.” Examine what your personality offers your friends. The richer your character and the more giving your personality, the stronger those friendships will be.

 

  1. What kind of friendships should we seek? Proverbs 27:6, 17.

Rubbing a knife against a sharpening iron makes the edge of the blade razor-sharp by friction. True friendship goes beyond common interests. Seek friendships that enrich your character and the character of others. Friends should have a positive influence on each other. Showing tough love to help someone through a problem is true friendship.

Not only can your close friends enhance your moral development and character growth, they can also accept you despite your shortcomings.

 

  1. What is a related quality of good friendships? Proverbs 17:17.

The Moffatt version translates this verse, “A friend is always a friend, he is a born brother for adversity.” Struggles and tough times reveal what friendships are made of: They even deepen relationships. They distinguish real friends from fair-weather friends. True friends will not desert you when things get rough or when they discover a weakness in you. They will see you through the adversity and help you overcome.

 

These proverbs say a lot about the kind of friend you should be, not just the kind of friends you should seek. Show your friends this unconditional love “at all times.” Be sure you demonstrate “wealthy” character around them, that your influence on them enhances their already strong character.

 

  1. What warnings do the Proverbs give about sure ways to ruin friendships? Proverbs 16:28; 17:9; 18:19.

These verses can refer to gossip that separates other people’s friendships. But gossip can also separate our own relationships if we spread rumors about our friends or share something with others that was told to us in confidence.

 

If you show yourself trustworthy; able perhaps to be blunt with your friends to their face in private, yet stick up for them around others and in the face of rumors, people will value your friendship.

 

We all make mistakes, though. A selfish act, an instance of stubborn pride, a hurtful comment; these can test the stability of a friendship. We should be able to apologize, and to forgive our friends when they slip up, to be a friend “at all times.”

 

Friendships to Avoid

 

  1. Does the Bible ever encourage two people not to be friends? Amos 3:3. Are there specific people we should not associate with? Proverbs 13:20.

 

Since we can choose our friends, God tells us to consider those choices carefully.

 

  1. Did Paul exhort Christians to avoid close company with nonbelievers? 2 Corinthians 6:14, 16-17.

 

These verses do not contradict the biblical law of “love thy neighbour as thyself.” Christians should hate the evil that people get involved in, but they should not hate the people. We can and should be friendly, help them if necessary, and even pray for them (Matthew 5:43-44). But do not associate with them or seek out their companionship.

 

There are also many nonbelievers that true Christians can become acquaintances with: people we work with or go to school with that we would not necessarily associate with beyond those situations. You can probably think of several acquaintances you have whose choices conflict with your values or morals in certain ways, but such a conflict does not typically arise in a work environment.

 

Use caution, however. Once those acquaintances move outside those boundaries, you could be dragged down by the lifestyle they lead. You may think you can be a good influence on them, but that is not what the Bible says. People who are bad influences will pull you down, often times you will not pull them up.

 

Close Friendships

 

  1. Are there some friendships that should be especially close? Proverbs 18:24 (last half).

 

Most of us have several good friends, maybe a few close friends, and maybe even one special, best friend. As you grow older, you will probably only be able to count your strongest, closest friendships on one hand. This is normal.

  1. As a human being, did Jesus Christ connect more with one disciple than the others? John 13:23; 21:20.

 

Instead of referring to himself by name in his own writings, the Apostle John refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Because Jesus was the great God in human form, the one who epitomized perfect love and friendship. His friendship with the other disciples did not suffer from the special bond He had with John. Jesus loved all men to the point of dying for every man. Still, Jesus referred to all of His disciples as His friends (John 15:14-15) and had a best-friend type relationship with John. In fact, Jesus, just before dying, told John to take care of His mother, Mary (John 19:25-27).

 

  1. Did David have a special closeness with a certain friend in his life? 2 Samuel 1:26.
  2. To what level did Jonathan love his best friend David? 1 Samuel 18:1, 3; 20:17.

 

Here is an example of outstanding love on the human level. Jonathan loved David “as his own soul.” Jonathan’s loyalty went to the point where he told David, “Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee” (1 Samuel 20:4). 

 

This relationship transcended even politics. Jonathan, son of King Saul (who was trying to kill David at this time), was the heir to Israel’s throne. But Jonathan had the courage to serve his friend, knowing that God had chosen David to be king, rather than cling selfishly to his position. It was a marvelous example of loyalty, mutual respect and admiration. It was unselfish love and up building of character in the other.

 

Treasure your friendships. Take time to learn who your real friends are. Choose your friends wisely. Then work at building those friendships. Examine the kind of friend you are and what you have to offer Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. If you do these things, your life can be enriched and your own character strengthened!

Jesus Christ is Exemplar of Masculinity

Artists and theologians have portrayed Christ as a skinny, soft-spoken, long-haired, effeminate wimp who died of a broken heart. This is not who He was. The Bible says it is shameful for a man to have long hair and that effeminate men won’t even be in God’s Kingdom (1 Corinthians 11:14; 6:9).

 

Jesus was a real man.

 

The real Jesus was nothing like what most people imagine! The Bible says Jesus was a muscular man of perfect health and enduring strength. He kept all the physical laws of good health (Hebrews 4:15). Before His ministry began at age 30, He worked with stone and timber as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). He had well-developed, hardened muscles and tanned skin from laboring outdoors throughout His life. During His ministry, He walked from city to city through mountainous terrain, sometimes traveling many miles in one day.

 

Artists who paint Jesus as effeminate must not have read John 2, where Christ confronted money changers in the temple. When He saw shady business transacting inside God’s house, He took a handful of ropes and whipped the livestock to drive them out. He kicked over tables and chairs and threw money all over the floor. His deep voice bellowed through the halls: “Get out of God’s house, and take your things with you!” This was at the beginning of His ministry, when few even knew who this man was (John 2:18). Yet these Jews were too fearful to challenge this strapping, righteously indignant young man.

 

Before being tempted of the devil, Jesus went without food and water for 40 days; something no frail weakling could ever endure. Before His crucifixion, Jesus was brutally beaten (John 19:1), then nailed to a stake with iron spikes. Yet his health was so robust that He lived through what would have easily killed the average man. He survived until a Roman soldier finally thrust a spear into His side.

 

Physical fitness is only a fraction of Godly masculinity, though. Jesus was a learned man who took His education seriously even as a child of his youth. Though little is recorded about His younger years, there is enough for us to know that, as a boy, Jesus obeyed His parents, Joseph and Mary, and developed an intimate relationship with His Spiritual Father in heaven (Luke 2:51-2:52).

 

At 12 years old, He entered the temple at Jerusalem and discussed the truth of God with the most educated theologians. Luke 2:47 says those who heard Him were “astonished at his understanding and answers.” They were amazed by how much He understood and He was 12! As Jesus grew up, He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (verse 52).

 

The mere fact that Christ began His ministry at the relatively young age of 30 reveals what kind of character He had as a boy, a teenager, and a young adult. By the time His ministry began, Jesus had developed into a powerful, persuasive speaker. Those who heard Him were astounded, and those who hadn’t heard Him traveled a long way so they could. People who knew Him as a child couldn’t believe how eloquently this Jewish carpenter could speak. When He finished speaking, He often tried to withdraw for a quiet moment, yet throngs of people would sometimes track Him down (Luke 4:42).

 

Jesus also had a commanding presence. His doctrine astonished the masses, because He “taught them as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29). He boldly castigated the self-righteous religious leaders of the day: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He cried. “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:29, 33). Yet Jewish authorities coveted His popularity. Even Pontius Pilate, who oversaw Christ’s execution, acknowledged that Jesus was a just man who spoke the truth (Matthew 27:24).

 

Together with steel-like traits of vibrant health, intelligence, decisive leadership, righteous indignation, and powerful persuasiveness, Jesus also exhibited many velvet qualities. Above all, He was humble. Publicans and Pharisees criticized Him for spending time with sinners, but He knew that the sick are the ones who need the physician (Luke 5:31-32). The Lord and Master of the disciples instituted an ordinance of humility at His final Passover, and He washed their feet (John 13:13-14). Though He was their Lord and Master, that merely meant He served them all the more. He taught that those who serve most will receive the highest positions in God’s Kingdom. You can see why Jesus, the most humble servant ever, qualified to be King in God’s Kingdom.

 

Jesus was also a compassionate man. No matter how busy He was or how crowded the scene, He made time for the disadvantaged. Christ once left Jericho with a great multitude, and two blind men cried out to Him for mercy. The multitude rebuked them, but Jesus stopped to help. “So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him” (Matthew 20:34).

 

This genuine compassion for others even caused Christ to weep on occasion. In the case of Lazarus, Jesus cried because of the people’s lack of faith (John 11:32-43).

 

The gentleness of Jesus is reflected in how He treated children. In Mark 10, after some adults pressed to have Him lay hands on their little ones, His own disciples rebuked the parents. But He reprimanded the disciples, saying we must all become as little children to enter God’s Kingdom. He then took these children up in His arms and blessed them.

 

This same kindness drew many women to Christ. Some even wept at His feet. At Jacob’s well, Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for water. She was taken aback, since other Jews wouldn’t even speak to Samaritans. Christ discerned that this woman was involved in an adulterous relationship; the way He dealt with her evidently prompted her to repent of that wickedness and to support Christ’s work (John 4:28-30).

 

This is how quickly Jesus forgave people who showed fruits of repentance. Another time, scribes and Pharisees were about to stone a woman caught in the act of adultery. But Jesus intervened to prick everyone’s conscience: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). After everyone left, He told the woman to go and sin no more.

 

Jesus Christ was the epitome of true masculinity. He wasn’t all steel, lording His authority over people. Neither was He all velvet. weak and effeminate standing for nothing. He possessed the perfect balance of virtues both powerful and tender, uncompromising and compassionate, blameless and merciful. He was both steel and velvet: strong, bold, courageous, gentle, patient and meek. This Godly form of masculinity drew many men, women, and children to Him.

 

The Bible paints the portrait of a real man; the kind of man all men should strive to become.

 

What True Masculinity Looks Like

God’s truth cuts through all of society’s confusion about masculinity and manhood. In His eyes, true masculinity is the evidence you see in the words and deeds of a man, the embracing of his God-given role and his destiny as a man. In doing so, he is taking on the character and divine nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

 

A masculine man sets his mind to attain the strong qualities of sound character, rock-solid confidence, and strength. He is an unselfish, stable, dominant (though not domineering), decisive leader. Yet he is balanced and tempered by the complementary traits of humility, attentiveness, gentleness, and refinement. In short, he strives to live as Jesus Christ did.

 

How can you recognize a truly masculine man?

 

A positive, upbeat outlook is the first thing you notice. True masculinity starts in the mind. The masculine man has a “can do” attitude and is eager to accept challenges and responsibility. He is a man of balance. He is not egotistical or arrogant, but rather has proper humility, recognizing his own limitations and his deep need for God (Isaiah 64:6; John 15:5). However, he doesn’t put himself down or worry about what others think of him. He allows God to use and develop his talents and abilities for their best use. He doesn’t covet others’ belongings, nor judge his own worth by comparing himself against others (2 Corinthians 10:12).

 

His life clearly centers on God. He shows the mindset and demeanor of a man who is in effective daily contact with God through prayer and Bible study. Though content with his station in life (Philippians 4:11), he has real drive and ambition, not because he craves personal aggrandizement, but because he wants to help and serve others, to fulfill his God-given potential, and to bring God all the glory. He radiates proper confidence, even boldness, knowing he “can do all things through Christ” (verse 13; Proverbs 28:1). This understanding, tempered by experience, drives out unmanly feelings of inferiority and fear.

 

The masculine man is a man of conviction. He uses common sense and good judgment. He aims to make his decisions based on truth and rightness rather than on others’ opinions, or on taking the easy road. He strives to practice what he preaches, to eliminate hypocrisy and to embody sincerity. He doesn’t compromise his principles. He accepts correction gracefully and is not destroyed by criticism. He doesn’t snap under stress and pressure. Putting his trust in God, he is able to navigate the storms of life with inner strength, stability, and peace. He faces challenges head on, and alert to opportunities.

 

The masculine man is master of his body. He maintains vigor, vitality, and good health. He tempers his appetites, gets proper exercise, and is careful to get good rest. He has the self-control to abstain from drunkenness, premarital sex, illicit drug use, and other vices that may tempt him.

 

He is also unafraid to show emotion (John 11:35). He feels and expresses both joy and pain, yet controls his temper. He is an understanding man, skilled in the art of tact and diplomacy. He is attentive to women and children.

 

The truly masculine man draws other people to him. People sense that he is different, and recognize a winning attitude of right leadership. He demonstrates self-respect, as well as respect for others. He appreciates the role of women. At the same time, he takes charge when necessary, properly using authority in a Godly manner. He is a blessing to his wife and children, providing security, attentive engagement, successful leadership, firm guidance, emotional stability, and real love. He inspires esteem from other men and respect from women, providing an example they can look to. His masculine authority, balanced with sensitivity, makes him attractive. When a woman recognizes that a man has her best interests at heart and will consider her needs in his decision-making, she will gladly follow him. She appreciates and is inspired by his positive confidence along with his concern for her and for others.

 

Such a man is truly a benefit and a blessing to those around him. This is the kind of masculinity the world needs more of.

 

The truly exciting thing about such masculinity is its spiritual dimension. Study the jobs that God has spelled out for men: protector of women and children; provider for families; husband; father; leader; head. Consider the responsibilities and qualities God commissions in men: supporting those who are weaker; using strength for others’ benefit; supplying a family’s needs and wants; sacrificing for the good of the family and others; loving a woman through firm, compassionate leadership; expanding the family with children and then bringing them up; educating them, leading them in the way they should go, helping them grow in character; building society. All of these point in inspiring ways to Jesus Christ and God the Father! They have spectacular spiritual parallels. As you study them and fulfill them, you build a spiritual mindset that brings you in closer harmony with God. Manliness is next to godliness (just as, for a woman, femininity is next to godliness).

 

The more you fulfill your purpose as a man, the more masculine you become. That is Godly masculinity.

 

What the Bible Teaches

The laws of God provide the path to happy living. Departing from them is what leaves us in a dark, confused thicket.

 

The Bible defines sin as the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). His law simply codifies His way of life, which is love (Matthew 22:36-22:40; Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14; 1 John 5:3). It means outgoing concern, giving and sharing, kindness and courtesy, putting the needs of another above your own. God’s way of life is the way of give.

 

The prevailing spirit of today’s society full of self indulgence, lust, greed, materialism, excess, deceit, cheating, and pride is the way of get, the way of sin. It is also the way of human nature, the way that comes naturally (e.g. Mark 7:21-7:23; Romans 8:7-8:8). God helps us overcome this natural tendency, develop righteous character, and live His way of love that produces happiness, joy, and peace.

 

One of the most powerful tools God created in order to teach us that way is family. A man learns that noble, wonderful way by absorbing himself in his God-given role within the family.

 

The Bible clearly states that God created humankind male and female (Genesis 1:26-1:27). God is the source of everything that makes men, men; and women, women. He designed the differences in physique, in emotions, in intellectual and psychological composition. He is the author of masculinity and femininity.

 

But why? Even those who claim to get their religion from the Bible, can they explain Genesis 1:27? Why did God create sex?

 

Collate all the observable and scriptural evidence, and you can clearly see that God created these differences to establish order and structure, especially within the family. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Non-Bible believers scoff at this scripture. “Christians” who don’t like it find ways to make it mean something else. But godly men and women see both the simple physical logic and the simplicity that is in Christ “Spiritual logic,” and beauty in it.

 

This is getting at the heart of true manhood and womanhood.

 

For the sake of order and organization, God created men to fulfill one set of responsibilities within the family and within society, and He created women to fill a different and beautifully complementary set of responsibilities.

 

The Bible shows that men and women, of themselves, are incomplete. After creating Adam, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). So He made Eve, literally from Adam’s rib (verses 21-22). “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman [Hebrew, ishshah], because she was taken out of Man [Hebrew, ish]” (verse 23). Ish is the Hebrew root word for ishshah, just as man is the root for woman. The woman’s very name and original existence came out of the man as purposefully designed by God. Man and woman became “one flesh” through marriage (verse 24). God appointed the man as head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23). The woman was to be his helper, his assistant (Genesis 2:20).

 

This is the reality that God created and revealed to humankind. It is a vital key to individual, family, and societal success! Understanding and wholeheartedly embracing God’s roles for men and women brings satisfaction and fulfillment in all your most important relationships: friends, dating, marriage, family. It brings peace to your home and success to your relationships with women.

 

Are you willing to honestly evaluate yourself and your own attitudes? Are you prepared to discard wrong ideas? Will you accept truth, even when it hurts? It strains the eyes to step from a dark cave into bright sunlight, but “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (read 1 John 1:4-1:9).