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Hobert's Homily: “Cultivating Friendships”
November 2018

  Jesus sets the example for us in cultivating friendships. We should recognize that loving God cannot be separated from loving people – Christ inseparably linked these two commands. Jesus tells us as the Father has loved Me so have I loved you. Now remain in my love… Love each other as I have loved you,” John 15:9, 12. Cultivating is building bridges of friendship with people. It can happen in a matter of minutes or over a course of years. This is a process of breaking up the hard ground of the soul to prepare for the seed of the gospel (Hosea 10:12). Jesus cultivated by becoming a “friend of sinners" (Matthew 11:19) and investing extended time with his disciples (John 3:22). This cultivating begins with prayer.

  In Luke 19:1 – 10, Jesus modeled the great commandment to love in his interaction with Zacchaeus. He was a despised Jewish tax collector. But when Jesus saw him in the sycamore tree, He did not call him a wicked liar and cheat. Instead He commanded Zacchaeus to come down and wanted to come to his house. So Jesus connected with Zacchaeus relationally as a lonely, rejected man. Jesus took time to eat with a man who was a cheating thief looking beyond his fault to see his need. Because Jesus met Zacchaeus’ relational need, Zacchaeus was compelled to confess his sin to Jesus. Jesus great commandment to love touched Zacchaeus’ heart, resulting in repentance. “God’s kindness leads towards repentance,” (Romans 2:4b).

  We can also build bridges of friendship with our spiritually lost Friends, Relatives, Associates and Neighbors (FRAN) –following the TLC approach (Target, Listen, Care). Target means to open our eyes to see. Jesus explained a way to do this in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 – 37). Jesus invites us to enlarge our view by strategically identifying spiritually lost Friends, Relatives Associates and Neighbors. Would you take the time right now to identify some? Write their names down and begin by praying for them and that the Lord would send laborers into the fields. Jesus said, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest,” John 4:35. 

  Then Listen by opening your heart to feel. Jesus was moved by compassion. True love is heartfelt. Jesus was concerned for their fallenness and their neediness. David Ferguson identifies ten valid needs God has created within us. They are met by God and His Word and our relationship with Him and by our relationships with God's people meeting each other's needs.

These needs are: 

Security (peace) … harmony in relationships; freedom from harm 
                   Romans 12: 16, 18      
Comfort … mourn with those who mourn with words, feeling and touch 
                  Romans 12:15b; 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 4 
Attention … taking thought of another; entering another's “world” 
                  1 Corinthians 12:25  
Acceptance … accept one another just as Christ has accepted you – unconditionally 
                  Romans 15:7 
Appreciation … expressing thanks or commendation; recognizing effort 
                  Colossians 3:15b; 1 Corinthians 11:2 
Support … carry each other's burdens; coming alongside and gently helping 
                 Galatians 6:2 
Encouragement …encourage and build one another; stimulating love and good deeds 
                 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24 
Affection … expressing care and closeness; saying “I love you.” 
                 1 Thessalonians 2:8; Romans 16:16; Mark 10:16 
Respect … Show proper respect to everyone; treating another as important 
                 1 Peter 2:17; Romans 12:10 
Approval (blessing) … Affirming the importance (significance) of a relationship 
                 Romans 14:18; Mark 1:11

  What are the heartfelt, emotional needs of the people God has placed you in your life?
Give this person the gift of listening. Identify two of the needs listed above that are prevalent in this person's life.

  TLC: Target, Listen and now Care by opening your hands to serve. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many,” 
           Mark 10:43 – 45.

  TLC reminders: 
People are not a project! We love because God first loved us. God's love in us compels us to love others.

  We should not compromise our relationship with Christ to develop relationships with the lost. Our friendships with unbelievers must allow us to walk as Jesus walked.  
Cultivating and planting are the hard work of sharing God's love (John 4:35 – 38).

  If 50 of us practice this towards 3 people each week, 7800 people would be touched in a year. Pray, cultivate, plant showing love for God and others! Let’s see what God will do!