October 6, 2010

Stay?...Or Go?

Friends are one of God's greatest blessings to us.

The Bible teaches a lot about them. It teaches that iron sharpens iron, that a friend loves at all time, that we should love our neighbors and that peacemakers are blessed. It teaches that we're better together, we need to hold one another accountable and we need to speak the truth in love. It also teaches lots more.

However the Bible doesn't advise (at least not that I've seen) when or if we should end a relationship. And if doing so is loving...or selfish and prideful. (I'm not talking about marriage which Jesus certainly talked about.)

The story of Paul and Barnabas is the closest I could find.

Paul and Barnabas were ministry partners and best friends. Yet in Acts 15 they had such a sharp disagreement they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus and Paul chose Silas and went through Syria and Ciliicia (v. 39-40). I'm guessing hurt feelings and wounded pride traveled with them as well.

Even though this story occurred 2,000 years ago, it could have happened yesterday--probably because things like this DO happen every day. Our humanity gets in the way and friendships end.

Yet what surprises me most about Paul and Barnabas' parting is that God used the schism to strengthen the church and it grew as a result of their separation. It seems the dissolution of their friendship was actually a good thing.

Certainly you can think of a friendship that ended badly—perhaps to be reconciled later, but never to be the same. Maybe you were the one who walked away or maybe you were the one left behind. Rejection hurts. It's hard to see how good can come of it.

But what is one to do when sharpened iron cuts more than strengthens? When love, even with the best intentions, hurts. And when personalities cannot arrive at peace?  Is it a loving thing to separate? Or does it still come down to a matter of pride and selfishness?

What would Jesus counsel us to do?

What would YOU do?


Sassy Granny ... said...

Great question!

Note to self: If the relationship is no longer healthy, get help or run like crazy.

ed cyzewski said...

Wow, this is a really original and insightful post. Do we hit a point when we need to part ways? It sure seems like it, but I think it's hard to admit it, let alone discern it. Good thoughts!

Cheryl Barker said...

I think it would probably depend on each unique situation. As I remember, Proverbs warns against being friends with an angry person, but that's just one possible scenario. We would need to seek God's wisdom for each situation I think.

Blessings to you, Kelli!

Terri Tiffany said...

I was eager to read the comments here as I have been in that situation before--and maybe am now. I hate to let friendships go--but as I grow older, I've seen it happen--either through just growing apart or due to some sort of misunderstanding. If it can be worked out, I try that route first.

JerryLyn said...

What a great post! My friendships are so dear to my heart so much a part of my life in gaining wisdom, growing deeper and living in this world. Until a couple years ago I would NEVER have thought I would have experienced a friendship breaking apart. I've felt that a pain a couple times. But about two years ago I was pretty devastated to experience that with one of my best friends. I can still feel the pangs of it. But when I reflect on it now, God was showing me, teaching me many things. Initially, it was shocking, but as I pulled back the layers to reveal other painful interactions that were just not healthy, I realized that I had to create boundaries and make some tough decisions. And having had to muster that courage up caused to me to be awake and aware about friendships that are God-honoring. For me, it was all part of my faith's journey. Having that experience also, since then, helps me to think about the ways some things change, some things may be meant for a season, or a specific purpose. It doesn't make it hurt less, but it helps me understand that sometimes letting go and speaking the truth in love (always) are necessary part of our human relationships. What a thought-provoking post. Thanks, Kelli.

Kelly Combs said...

I believe in "seasonal" friends. Sometimes God puts someone in our path to be our friend for a time but not a life-long friend and I think that is OKAY! I think if you are blessed enough to have 1 covenant friend (think Jonathan & David) you are blessed. I am blessed with many friends, but have also had seasonal friends. I think fondly of them, but we don't have the common bonds we used to that was the basis of our friendship.

Sometimes it's healthy to move on. And especially if the relationship has turned toxic or to pain, you must leave it. Good luck & be blessed, Kelli.


Such a hard topic, Kelli. I have been blessed with wonderful friends and only twice has a friendship gone awry. Both times, I felt I was making the right choice, but later (years later), wish I had just "redailed" the friendship - instead of completly stopped it. It was so painful. God has begun to restore one and the other has been years. I do appreaciate many many faithful friends.


michelle said...

i love that you tackled this subject.
i have been on both ends of this....and still don't have any good answers.

Laura said...

I remember reading more about the Paul/ story in one of Beth Moore's bible studies. If I remember correctly, it turned out that Mark was nephew. So really, when Paul rejected him, had little choice than to side with the family. And later, Mark was one of Paul's greatest comforts.

Yes, I think sometimes parting is God's will. He has things that He can accomplish through means that we don't understand. However...there is little motivation in this world to stick with a friendship. Too many times we give up on one another. I think we need to try harder. Because...God can work with it all. And we need each other. And there are certain depths of relationship that we can never reach if we don't fall into a few trenches along the way.

Thanks for making me think today. :)

Clella said...

Often friendships just change and sometimes it is so difficult to realize this has happened. i have had many friendships in my lifetime and some are still active but many have fulfilled the plan God had for us and we have gone our separate ways. To know when this needs to happen so that it can be done amicably is the most difficult part isn't it. And yet we grow and God's kingdom also grows when we can move on in love.
Excellent thoughts in this post ...Thank you for coming to Clella's Corner. clella

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

How wise Paul and Barnabas... perhaps much wiser than we in the way they dealt with their disagreement. Must have been a big one...

Still and yet, you make a valid, beautiful point. I cannot help but think about our recent ministry move... it was a difficult decision. We loved our good people at our former church; yet, there was that tension (easily identified but rarely discussed publicly). Both my husband and I new that God was prodding us in a different direction, and while Fayetteville wasn't what we expected, we are now seeing the wisdom of God's push along these lines. So many gains by being here, sister, both for us and for our little congregation. And so many gains for those who remain behind... they just might not see it yet, but they will.

Thank you for the pondering today. I like comparing Paul's story with mine. May the kingdom go forward, regardless of our whereabouts, to increase in fullness the truth and witness of Jesus Christ.

I love you, friend. Thanks for standing alongside. You're a mighty warrior.