“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” Romans 12:9-10 (The Message)

So, friendship has been on my heart lately. (If we’re friends on Facebook, you’re probably thinking to yourself–“DUH!”)

Today, these verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans are sitting on my heart:

…love from the center.

…don’t fake it.

…hold on to good.

…be good friends.

…love deeply.

…play second fiddle.

Paul has just finished writing about being living sacrifices, refusing to conform to the patterns of the world, and using our gifts. And now he turns his pen to friendship and community.

As I think about friendship, and as I pursue friendships that are God-honoring, faith-building, and full of authenticity, it is my prayer that I can live, breathe, and soak in Paul’s friendship advice.

“Love from the center of who you are.” The love we share with friends should be born out of solitude, born out of a deep love and abiding relationship with God in Jesus Christ, and start from a place of knowing that we are all (yes, you and me) God’s beloved. Love from the center.

“Don’t fake it.” I am sick of wearing masks in relationships, and holding up a scaffolding is exhausting both for me, and for the friends who really do want the truth when they ask “How are you doing?” Paul urges us to not fake it. To be real. To be honest when we’re upset, and honest when we’re happy. In all cases, though, don’t fake it. Let’s be real with each other here. Don’t fake it.

“Run for dear life from evil.” I know we are called to love our enemies. I know we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. But we also need to care for ourselves by staying clear of toxic relationships. You know the stuff: gossip, arrogance, …the things that zap us and drag us further from Christ. There are some relationships that we can’t afford to give significant real estate in our lives. Run for dear life.

“Hold on for dear life to good.” Just like there are certain people and relationships we might need to run from because of their toxicity in our lives, there are also friendships in our lives that are absolutely worth fighting for. They are worth repeated invitations to time together. They are worth letting go of some other things. And those are the ones to which we must cling if we are going to make it through life’s circumstances. Hold on for dear life.

“Be good friends who love deeply.” I’m learning more and more that if I want good friends in my life, I’ve got to start by being a good friend. This looks like a lot of things. A text message to check in and ask how I can be praying. An offer to do whatever might be needed to make life a little easier for the people I love. Encouragement and reminders. Sharing the crap going on in my own life to be reminded that we are not alone. Be a good friend. Love deeply.

“Practice playing second fiddle.” This can be hardest for me. Practice humility. Let others have the spotlight of the celebration. I think about the years I spent in band programs throughout elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. There were times playing trumpet where I really wanted first chair but was needed to play the second part. But you know what, that second part, though seemingly insignificant, makes that lead part sound so much better. So, by playing second fiddle to my friends and practicing humility, I get to help my friends shine. Practice playing second fiddle.

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