Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you. ESV Mark 5:19
I spent some time with an elderly neighbor today…deepened a friendship. Then spent some time working on a neighborhood block party invite…to build more friendships. Today I was able to visit the widow of one of our former church members. She doesn’t attend church much now, but indicated a desire to come back to Friendship. I traded texts with several other friends. Spent some time on the phone with my mom and brother. Emailed another friend inviting him to join me and the “old guys” for breakfast in the morning. In short, it was a relational day. Yes, I’m an extrovert, so I enjoy relating to many people, but there’s another reason for all this contact.
When we have friends, we are able to bring them to Jesus, or encourage them to continue to follow Jesus. In the verse above, Jesus had just rid this man of many demons and he wanted to follow Jesus and be with Him. Jesus instead encouraged him to return home and tell his friends how much the Lord had done for him. (Interestingly, he lives among the tombs as a demoniac prior to this, so it’s hard to imagine him having many friends.) He told the friends he did have, and they marveled. Cornelius as well gathered his friends when Peter came to present the gospel…and an entire group were saved. It seems that part of our spiritual formation involves building relationships with people in order to influence them for Christ.
You see, God loves people. He loves them so much He sent His Son Jesus to die for them. He’s not willing that any should perish. And He left us here to befriend them and tell them about the good news of Jesus. That’s why I took extra time getting to know my elderly neighbor. It’s why I hand-delivered a book this afternoon that I could have just left in my office for someone to pick up. It’s why I’ll pick up a new friend tomorrow and take him to breakfast. It’s why I text numerous people each day. They all need to be encouraged in their walk with Christ…either for the first time or to continue. It’s the value of relationships.