True friendship is priceless

One of the e-mail subscriptions I have comes from John Eldredge of Ransomed Heart Ministries. This was in my e-mail inbox this morning:

When he left Rivendell, Frodo didn’t head out with a thousand Elves. He had eight companions. Jesus didn’t march around backed by legions of angels, either. He had twelve men – knuckleheads, every last one of them, but they were a band of brothers.

“This is the way of the kingdom of God. Though we are part of a great company, we are meant to live in little platoons. The little companies we form must be small enough for each of the members to know one another as friends and allies.

“Who will fight for your heart? How can we offer the stream of counseling to one another, unless we actually know one another, know each other’s stories?

“The reason counseling became a hired relationship between two people was largely because we couldn’t find it anywhere else; we haven’t formed the sort of small fellowships that would allow the stream to flow quite naturally. Is it possible to offer rich and penetrating words to someone you barely know, in the lobby of your church, as you dash to pick up the kids? Where will you find the Four Streams?

“The Four Streams are something we learn, and grow into, and offer one another, within a small fellowship. We hear each other’s stories. We discover each other’s glories. We learn to walk with God together. We pray for each other’s healing. We cover each other’s back. This small core fellowship is the essential ingredient for the Christian life.

“Jesus modeled it for us for a reason. Sure, he spoke to the masses. But he lived in a little platoon, a small fellowship of friends and allies. His followers took his example and lived this way, too. “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (2:46). “Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house” (1 Cor 16:19). “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house” (Col 4:15).”

Did you catch that? “The reason counseling became a hired relationship…” (Emphasis added!)

Please don’t misinterpret this as somehow bashing professional counseling, but how can any “hired relationship” replace a real one? While I agree that there is a purpose and a place for professional counseling, isn’t it sad that for many people that’s the only place to turn when all they need is someone to talk to?

And what does one do when the professional counselor advise the wrong course of action, when the counselor suggests to a woman that she divorce her husband simply because she says she’s “fallen out of love” with him? What sort of malpractice did the counselor just commit, and how will the ramifications of her advice negatively impact the children in this relationship?

How can a hired relationship possibly replace one built on love, trust, empathy and friendship?

I’d like to think that our human relationships are all counseling sessions of sorts. When a friend asks for our opinion on something or simply wants to vent aren’t we doing what Jesus called us to do by loving our neighbors as ourselves?

This week I’d encourage you to think of at least one good friend with whom you can confide, then thank God for that person. Think about what Eldredge writes and think of how you can be an encouragement to someone else. Maybe it’s not to your best friend; maybe it’s in the grocery store line, or in the lobby of the church… don’t be so quick to find your seat or hit the door on the way out. Encourage someone today.

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