"Friends don't let friends drink decaf coffee," is a jovial meme in a post that I scroll past on my social media feed. Because this phrase is often used humorously, I was surprised to learn that, "friends don't let friends," was actually coined by a drunk driving slogan in the 1980s that read: "Friends don't let friends drink and drive." This expression is often used to discourage inappropriate, harmful, undesirable, or unwanted behaviors. Now, decaf coffee is nowhere even remotely comparable to the dangers of drunk-driving, but both lend the assumption that our role in friendships necessitates keeping friends from making bad decisions.
When we look at Scripture, we find many descriptions of the duties of a true friend. A friend encourages, loves at all times, builds up, sticks closer than a brother. Yet some may not seem all too glamorous when mentioning the role of sharpening one another and the necessary wounding of a friend. In these very ways, we're called to build up our friends in the Lord and keep them from the harm of sin, by doing the hard work of calling out their offenses graciously and truthfully. One of our greatest acts of love for our friends is to help them love Jesus more by killing sin in their lives.
Stepping into the battlefield of sin for a friend, however, is not always an easy task. We may fear rejection or being viewed negatively by those we care about. We may fear the burden and discomfort that comes along with exposing sin. We may feel inadequate or unmerited in our desire to confront. We may fear that we will lose the friendship entirely. The list is endless of thoughts and feelings that can deter us from talking with a friend about visible sin in their lives. Nevertheless, it is the most loving thing we can do. It's desiring their holiness over their happiness and placing their relationship with God above their relationship with us.
Likewise, allowing a friend into the ugly and shameful parts of our lives can be difficult. We may fear being viewed differently or being judged harshly. We may fear losing the image we have curated for ourselves. We may even fear being untrusted or having our faithfulness questioned because of our sin. Sharing and confessing sin to our friends is just as necessary as confronting it for them. Having open and honest conversations with those closely invested in our life creates a space of vulnerability and care for one another. Calling out sin is better received from those who are known to openly and willingly confess their own sin. It helps to remind one another that we were never meant to walk this road alone and that we are all in need of help and grace along the way.
The safest place for our sin to be revealed is in the context of Christian friendships. A place where the messy and the uncomfortable are received with open arms because they have seen the overwhelming mercy and grace of Jesus Christ at work in their own lives. Christian friendships are founded on the truth that we are broken sinners in need of a great Savior and that every step towards holiness and away from sin is sheerly a work of the Spirit in our hearts shaping and sanctifying us to look more and more like Jesus. By stepping into one another's lives, we serve as a guiding post - redirecting and pointing one another away from temptation and towards heaven. Let's boldly and humbly take on this responsibility in our friendships and watch the grace of Jesus grow like wildflowers in our own lives and the lives of those closest to us.