One of the greatest things that we have experienced since we left our former church is all of the wonderful friendships we have renewed and the new ones we are making. We see everything in such a different light. Don't get me wrong, we have always loved people and had many friends, but most of our friendships were inside the four walls of the church. We have been getting to know our neighbors and people in the community and we have met many very nice people. There are some people we have known for over twenty years, but are just now really getting to know them.
Controlling churches try to tell you who you should and should not talk to. They tell you that you should not fellowship with anyone who leaves the church. You are not even supposed to allow your children to play with their friends who leave. People who leave are basically shunned and then talked about in negative ways. How is that christian? Aren't christians supposed to love everyone? We are called to love others, especially our brothers and sisters in the Lord. How it must hurt the Lord to see His children divided. What are people teaching their children when they are taught to walk in love and then they are not allowed to talk or fellowship with people any more just because they leave the church? That is so far off of what the Bible teaches about love.
If a church has tried to control your life in this way, they have overstepped their bounds. One way to know if this has been a part of your life is to check up on your relationships. It became clear to me when I woke up one morning and thought about a dear friend of mine that I had not spoken to in months since she had left the church. She is one of the most loving, kind persons I have ever known. When I think about someone being a true christian, I think of her. Why had I let so much time pass before I called her? I am ashamed to say it was because I wasn't supposed to talk to people who had left the church. I am so glad I saw the truth because I could have missed out on having a wonderful friendship with a wonderful person. Looking back over the years, I see how many people have had friendships damaged for unfounded reasons.
We are supposed to reach out in our communities and be friends with many. If the members of a church only look inward, how will the church grow and how will people be helped? Church is about community. It's about reaching out and drawing people in by the love you have for them. A church should have the attitude of "what can we do for people" instead of "what can people do for us." People want to go to a church where people are friendly.
Friendship was ordained by God. He said it wasn't good for man to be alone. Life is meant to be shared with others. As I have been spending time with friends lately, I have realized how starved I had been for friendships. A church should promote fellowship among the people. We need each other - to love each other, to encourage each other, and even to give each other a shoulder to cry on. Proverbs 17:17 says, "Friends love through all kinds of weather." Proverbs 18:24 says, "Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family." That's the kind of friend I want to be.
Jesus is also our friend - our best friend. John 15:12-15 says, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends." You can see by reading this that the Lord wants a close, intense friendship with His people. I'm happy to say that I am a friend of God. He is ever mindful of us and He calls us His friends. Romans 5:11 says, "We have now actually received this amazing friendship with God." That's the friendship that matters most, but I also want to be a trusting friend to many, many people throughout my life. Life is better with friends!
I see more every day that loving God and loving people is what really matters in life.