Stretch Out to love

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Rev Candy Liong:
Friendship with other

WE are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). We should learn to embrace and appreciate ourselves, with our strengths and weaknesses. Only when we love and appreciate ourselves will we be able to build deep and satisfying friendships with other women.

Why do we need friends, especially friends with other women?

1. Friends help us to enjoy God
Christianity is communal. Ephesians 5:18-19 tells us, “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart”. Good friends help us to enjoy God and His creations. No one can walk alone in life and in our spiritual journey.

2. Friends keep us accountable
John Wesley had his covenantal group which kept all of them accountable to each other. Good friends watch over us with love and make sure we are on the right track. Friends speak the truth to us in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses”. In my own life, my friends speak into my life and give corrections when necessary. It is painful to hear at that moment but they did it out of love so that I am at the right path.

3. Friends bring us before God in prayers
Sometimes, when life’s burdens and problems drag us down, friends will give us advice or lend us listening ears. How wonderful it is to know that we are not alone in our struggles and burdens but that there are faithful friends who are bringing us before God in their intercessions.

A Biblical model
of a female friendship

The Bible gives us examples of godly friendships. Men and women of God had a community which supported and encouraged them. Think of someone from the Bible and you can see there was a community walking with them, keeping them accountable and praying for them. This reminds us that our relationship with God is important, but relationships with other people are just as important and essential to our souls.

The story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, was one of the most beautiful friendships. Ruth, was married to one of Naomi’s sons. Unfortunately, he died. So did Naomi’s husband and the other son. Naomi encouraged her daughters-in-law to go back to their families in Moab. Orpah, the other of Naomi’s daughters-in-law, left, but not Ruth—Ruth stayed, pledging her life to Naomi, saying “Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.”

Ruth refused to let Naomi be alone, and traveled with her to Bethlehem, helping her to survive as a lone woman in a patriarchal society, gathering food, and eventually met Boaz and had a family again which restored Naomi to a sense of family.

Their friendship showed us the value of loyalty, trust, sacrifice and unconditional love. I think these are the foundations of a strong friendship, with two women showing loyalty, trust, sacrifice and love to each other.

If we want to have godly friendships, first of all, we should demonstrate these qualities to our friends.

As my conclusion, I would like to bring a few points about our friendship with other women. If you desire to have some close friendships, first of all, pray to God. Pray that He will bring people into your life who are willing to walk with you and appreciate who you are instead of trying to change you and always criticising you. Secondly, a potential friend may be in a Bible class, homemaker group, or in the church prayer meeting. One of the wonderful places to look for them is in the church. Thirdly, be a friend who is loyal, caring, loving. Don’t take your friend for granted but show appreciation. Lastly, as in a marriage, put God in the centre of the relationship so that it will be a healthy friendship.

Dr Winnie Chan:
Wants and Needs

There was once a boy named Eustace in this magical world called Narnia. Eustace was arrogant, selfish, and greedy. No one really liked him. During their travels throughout the vast world of Narnia, the children ran the ship ashore on a mysterious island. Eustace wandered off by himself and ended up stumbling upon a cave containing a dragon’s hoard of treasure.

Eustace, being a greedy boy, realized that he could be rich if he kept all the treasure for himself. Tired from the excitement of discovering the dragon’s riches, Eustace fell asleep on top of all the gold and silver. When Eustace woke up the next morning, he found out that he had been turned into a dragon. This is CS Lewis’s words “Sleeping on a dragon’s hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.”¹ Eventually Aslan the Lion in Narnia land helped him to return to human form by peeling off his dragon skin, one scale at a time, it was painful but he came out to be a better person.

I can’t help to think that we are all like this dragon. Our thoughts turn us to become a monster-like person in our relationships. We have scales, we need to peel them off, one at a time.

How did we become greedy like this dragon? “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1) James said it was from within a person that caused such greed.

First, I have a desire. Desire is “I want something”. And if you put your desire under control, or if this desire is being done at the right time and at the right place and with the right people, it is acceptable. However, if you let your desire grow until it turns into a demand, it is dangerous. The demand is “I must have”— “I must have what I have set my heart on and nothing can stand in the way.”

Then, demand rises to become a need. “I must have” becomes “I will have”. This need does not refer to our basic needs such as oxygen or food and water to survive. This need here reflects our desires which get out of control.

And then what happens? Need transitions into relational expectations. Needs become something like either you should help me get it, or you should not stop me from getting it. This will create conflict in the relationship.

Relational expectations lead to personal disappointments. Tripp states in his book, “…much of our disappointment in relationships is not because people have actually wronged us, but because they have failed to meet our expectations.” But you know a lot of times, our expectations are unreasonable. Sometimes, we have already set unexpectedly high expectations on someone to fulfill what we need and want. That’s why in relationships with others, sometimes our friends avoid us because of the unreasonable expectations we have set on them.

Lastly, experiencing disappointment will cause us to punish the person who had disappointed us. Since the person did not help me to get what I want, I will punish him or her. Punishment comes in the form of argument, fight, volcanic eruption, cold treatment, physical violence, withdraw, stonewalling, even retaliation etc.

All these 6 points do not happen stage by stage. For analysis purposes, i just laid them out to let you know what had happened to our heart through these stages. When a relationship turns sour, what can we do? I would suggest three points: Firstly, examine your heart before you retaliate or withdraw. Talk over it with God and with yourself. Secondly, go the extra mile. Be patience and kind. Thirdly, communicate kindly what you would expect when similar things shall happen the next time, .e.g. if I come home late, please……do this… or not do that…

Sinful growth of desire is not only damaging our relationships with others, but it is an assault on the glory of God. Idolatrous desires had created love for something else in the place of God and in the place of others. In other words, it is actually breaking the two central commandments of loving God and loving our neighbours. We need to surrender our desires to God. He knows what is best for us at the right moment.

Tripp states, “Problems in relationships are rooted in problems of worship.” It means if we don’t have a good relationship with God, it will reflect in our relationships with others. Remember our horizontal relationship is closely connected to our vertical relationship with God.

My dear friends, come back to the God who loves you so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus, into this world to take away our punishment for our sins. He who knows no sin became sin for us. Believe in God and repent of your sins. If we stay close to God, our relationship with others will flourish.

Dr Lee Khoon Siew:
one another

In relating to others, sometimes it’s not about yours or mine; we just need to accept one another and that is sometimes a challenge.

In the closing chapters of Romans 12-16, Paul gave many practical applications on how to live out our faith including how we relate to one another. Paul reminds us the reason to accept one another clearly in Romans 15:7.
“Accept one another, then,
just as Christ accepted you,
in order to bring praise to God.”

There are many passages with the phrase, “one another”, in the New Testament. Many of these are commands on how to relate to one another. Some examples:
• Be devoted to one another
(Rom 12:10)
• Bear with one another
(Col 3:13)
• Forgive one another
(Eph 4:2,32; Col 3:16)
• Look to the interests of one another
(Phil 2:3)
• Confess your faults to one another
(James 5:16)
• Do not slander one another
(James 4:11)
• Do not grumble against one another
(James 5:9)

The question is, who is the “one another” in your life? Whom do you need to accept? There are many reasons why we struggle with this matter of accepting one another. Often it is because we have first judged. Jesus knows we tend to judge, this is a human weakness and He reminds us in Matthew 7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”.

Who are we judging and find it hard to accept? If we judge and keep harping on the speck in our brother’s eyes, consumed by unacceptance and unforgiveness, then it is like drinking poison every day. We will end up hurting ourselves. Of course, we should not turn a blind eye to sin. We do not condone what is not holy and not right. We are to love and accept the person but not the sin.

Is there a solution to how we can better accept one another? Paul talks about loving one another. I especially like 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” The word deeply is translated from the Greek word “Ektenes” which means ‘stretched out”. It is a word used to describe the stretched out legs of a horse as it is galloping at full speed. Imagine the horses fore and hind legs, fully stretched out. Yes we need to have a stretched out love to cover one another’ s sins in order that we can learn to accept one another.

Allow me to share about my mother.

I have been struggling to accept my mother. It may sound funny; I did not have this struggle until my mum came to live with me after I had left home 35 years. My mother is sweet, harmless, simple; she does not nag; she is mentally well, physically a bit weak. But she is stubborn and very set in her ways. It upsets me; I now realised it is a matter of myself not accepting my mother, not accepting her ways. I have changed from the past 35 years, she too had changed ever since she lived alone with my dad after I and my siblings left home. I developed resentment, anger, bitterness towards her and my siblings who could not help much to look after my mum. I am the youngest and how come it all landed on me? I love my siblings. Yes, I know they have their constraints. One lives in the U.K., the other in Singapore. I sometimes have angry words with my mother, her ways irritate me. An example, she is very deaf but she says she is not.

A series of events made me realise, how I bring much sorrow upon myself and my mother too I think, by not accepting my mother. Of course I take good care of her but in my heart I know I have not accepted her.

I asked God to forgive me. It was not easy but with His help I try to live out the command to accept my mother, with a love stretched out, to cover, to not see whatever it is that I find difficult to accept.

Praise the Lord, my brother accepted Christ a year and half ago and I am glad. He knew my struggles with our mother and perhaps he realised that it is but God who has been helping me to press on, to love deeply and how I am learning to accept mother. “We love because God first loves us” (1 John 4:19). And so ultimately God is glorified. All Glory be to God.

Compiled by Rev Candy Liong
Faith Methodist Church, Kuching