According to celebrity tabloids and talk shows, the rich and famous seem to flaunt friendships for their own personal benefit. One day the paparazzi record starlets who are devoted to each other, and the next day they are scratching out each other’s eyes. The whole idea of a devoted friendship is lost in photos and sound bytes.
In a world that spins people and stories at cyber speed, we need to put on the brakes and examine our Lord’s example of being deeply devoted to others. Even in the church, as we try to be all things to all people, we can fail at devoted friendship.
The Greek word for devotion is philostorgos, which means “to cherish one’s kindred, to be fond of, to be fraternal toward fellow Christians, tenderly loving and tenderly affectionate.” Devotion implies a deep level of commitment and is perhaps the only “one another” we can, in some measure, ration out.
The Lord had the 12 disciples to whom he was deeply devoted, but among them three — Peter, James and John – were His closest confidantes. He did not love them any more than the others, but he did feel called to spend more time with them, and he allowed them to know him in ways the others did not. The three were invited to be with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, perhaps the highlight of his earthly ministry, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, arguably the lowest point of his earthly ministry.
Likewise in our lives, we will know and love many people, but a natural yearning will cause us to be devoted to only a fraction of our friends. I can’t maintain a close relationship with hundreds of people, yet there are some for whom I would drop what I am doing at a moment’s notice to respond to their needs.
What does it mean to be devoted to someone? From Jesus’ example, we glean some different things.
- Value – Devotion implies value, worth and importance. “You are such an important part of my life; I can’t imagine life without you.”
- Commitment – Nothing will stand in the way of my devotion; no excuses. “I am committed to you. I pledge to be lovingly involved in your life.”
- Long-term commitment – We are in this relationship for the long haul. “I will walk with you through the good times and bad.”
- Priority – When we are devoted to someone, that person takes precedence over other things. “I will always prioritize our relationship. When necessary, you will be the sole focus of my attention.”
- Meeting needs – Devotion is an attitude, a mind-set, a state of the heart, but it will inevitably manifest itself in practical ways. “I will am concerned about your physical, emotional and spiritual needs and delight in helping to meet them.”
- Faithfulness – Relational security comes from knowing we will be consistently faithful to the end. “I am going to bind myself to you. I hope my deep commitment will make you feel secure.”
- Vulnerable communication – For a relationship to deepen, we must get below surface issues and talk about issues of the heart: struggles, fears, doubts, aspirations, dreams and frustrations. “I am willing to share the deep issues of my life and you can trust me with yours. I want to know you in a deep, intimate way.”
- Tenderness – Looking beyond their faults, we feel tender affection, softness and warmth for our devoted. “You are very dear to me” sums this up nicely.
- Consistency – Consistent love is something we must aspire to give in all of our relationships, but in order to communicate a deep sense of devotion to someone, this is essential. “You can count on me to be a consistent source of love and care.”
- Love, even unto death – When we are truly devoted to someone, that life is more valuable than our own. Jesus emphasizes this deep level of love in John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
The most precious possessions I have in life are those friends to whom I am devoted and who are devoted to me. Without them, life would be very empty.
www.donmcminn.com. Used by permission.