Do you want to know what I think is one of the truest indicators of a sincere friendship?
I think the sincerest kind of friendship becomes evident when two people who know the best and worst about each other can sit in silence without feeling awkward. Nothing needs to be said. Nothing needs to occur. No distraction is required. Talking about the weather is never even a thought. Instead, what’s most important is simply being together—within reach, within earshot, breathing the same air in the same space in the same part of an otherwise sprawling world. Such a relationship—one friend enjoying the quiet presence of the other—understands the dreadful alternative of the other’s absence, of being apart and out of reach, of the palpable but clumsy incompleteness that would occur if he or she were gone.
I’ve had other thoughts about the ingredients I think make for genuine friendships.
Speaking only for myself, I want to be a person who doesn’t feel the need to check his schedule when someone I care about asks for my time. Instead, I want to live as though the schedule doesn’t even exist. Not only that, but I want the ones I love to know I’m available to them in all circumstances and that they can take just as much comfort from the assumption. As busy as life so often seems, this sometimes feels like wishful thinking. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that a friend’s readiness at any moment is telling, and it’s something I long to exude.
I’ll be turning fifty this year, and as I get older, these and other theories on relationships have begun sparking in my mind. It’s almost as though God has started cracking flint rocks in my brain, kindling fires of realization about the people in my life before it gets too late into the human evening. Maybe the same kinds of analyses are happening in your life. I suppose certain stages of maturity do that. Immature people do very little reflecting. They’re most often reactionary. When it comes to ideologies, immature people usually just vomit out what they think they know, having let others do the thinking for them. I read somewhere that two of immaturity’s common denominators are a messy room and the inability to delay self-gratification.
On the other hand, maturity brings patience. It maintains focus and stays the course. It tends to think for itself. It takes time to reflect before application. For some things, the reflection is brief. For others, it’s a bit longer. Either way, it happens. In fact, it could be that thinking—careful discernment—is maturity’s most crucial task. Interestingly, when asked how he discovered the law of gravity, Isaac Newton didn’t nod to successful experimentation with his theory but instead replied, “By thinking on it continually.” His achievement was in the discerning.
Spiritual maturity most certainly thinks. Saint Paul was a thinker. His epistles are saturated with this premise.
In Philippians 4:8, Paul compels constant reflection on the things of God, writing, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” In Romans 12:2 he warns against conforming to the world, urging his readers to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” In other words, Christians must think through their challenges, weighing them against the revealed will of God exposed by His Word. Of course, before Paul wrote the twelfth chapter of Romans, he’d already set the stage for Godly reflection as a lifestyle, having jotted in 8:5-6: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Thinking calibrated to the Word of God not only takes aim at eternal life but also gives peace in the here and now. I suppose that’s one reason Paul told the young pastor Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Firstly, he wrote these words having already sent a previous letter to Timothy describing some incredibly complicated situations the new undershepherd would need to navigate. Secondly, Paul’s words served in this follow-up epistle as an introduction to a chapter concerned with false teachers.
Paul wanted Timothy to think through what he would do.
I think my favorite of Paul’s instructions to be a Christian who thinks—to be someone who pitches everything against the Word of God—is the summary phrase he scribbles in 2 Corinthians 2:5. It’s there he says so plainly that we are to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” This phrase needs no explanation.
These are just a few of the texts that lend themselves easily this morning. There are plenty of others, and not just in Saint Paul’s writings. In the end, the point is to think—to use the Word of God as the filter for one’s reflection on everything.
Does this mean thinking through and applying the Word of God at every stop sign you come to while driving? No. Although, if you discover your brakes are out, or you’re one to blow through stop signs purposely, some reflection on the Law and Gospel of God’s Word might be worth your while when you see one of those bright red octagons on the horizon. Apart from these, and assuming a greater maturity, does it mean thinking through raising your children; how you’ll vote; whether you should have another drink; how you’ll deal with conflict; what you’ll do in situations of sexual temptation; which organizations you’ll support with your time, talents, and treasures; how often you’ll attend worship; and so on? Yes. In all these things, take every thought captive to obey Christ. Think them through, seeking alignment with God’s revealed will, all the while trusting that His will is always best.
Do this and be at peace.