In this episode, Keith and Chad discuss James chapter 3 and how it relates practically to our friendships in everyday life.
Intro (Keith): Welcome to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast, where we continue to equip leaders with biblical skills for a lifetime of ministry.
Chad (00:13): And welcome back into the Kankakuk Institute Podcast. With you, as always ins Keith Chancey and Chad Hampsch. We are excited to jump into a fun topic today talking about the topic of friendship, and Keith, obviously, in today’s world, as we talk with kids with college students, even with adults. Like, friendship is a hard thing.
Keith (00:33): Isn’t it ever.
Chad (00:34): So challenging, and so we’re going to dive into the book of James here in a minute and talk what he has to share with us about friendship, but you wrote a little something that you kind of wanted to share with everybody.
Keith (00:47): Yeah, I think, I received a poem a long time ago, all the way back to college, and I’ll never forget that it was, it’s an unknown author, it was a poem that I went, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” This absolutely said what I was thinking in my friendships. I wish I could have written this. It was amazing. Here, I’ll go ahead and read it to you, because I think it’s pretty fun to hear. And what it is, it’s a poem that, as I read it, it’s not all the way theologically right, so I’ll tell you that right now.
Chad (01:14): Yeah.
Keith (01:15): But what it does is it makes me have a really regretful feeling of friendships I haven’t done right.
Chad (01:22): That’s good
Keith (01:23): And so I go, man, do I ever want friendships to be right. And as I read this, I go, “Dude, this is a well-said poem.” And here’s, it’s entitled, “My friend.” And I kind of gave it a second part: My friend with regrets.
Chad (01:37): Okay
Keith (01:38): Okay? So, my friend, I stand in earthly judgement now, and feel that, my friend, you are the blame somehow. On earth I walked with you day by day, and never did you, my friend, point the way. You knew the Lord in truth and glory, but never did you tell me the story. My knowledge then was very dim. You could have risked it all and led me to him. Though we live together on earth you never told me of the second birth. And now I stand this day condemned because you failed to mention him. You taught me many things, that’s true. I called you “friend” and I trusted you. But I learned now that it’s too late. You could have saved me from this fate. Yes, we walked by day and we talked by night, and yet you never showed me the light. You let me live and love and die. You knew I’d never live on high. Yes, I called you friend in life, and laughed with you through joy and strife. And yet now, coming to the end, I cannot now, call you my friend. Wow. I mean, that has a brutally honest poem. That I think says a lot. Now, we also understand that God’s in control of all this. But there’s nothing worse in my world that I feel a regret that I wish I would have said something that I didn’t say. And so, I think that’s where I stand a lot with friendships. Is I go, “I wish I would have said something.” You know, as I get older, what I keep noticing is that my friends are dying. You know? Guys on my football team. You know? Several of them over the last couple years have died that I played college football with. Why? Because we’re getting older. Here’s the thing: when you look back over your life, what you want to be able to say is I did everything I could to live life without a regret because I shared with that person that I called friend the greatest friend Jesus.
Chad (03:27): Yeah, that’s good, and as you know, part of my story for sure was losing a friend when I was a senior in high school and the regret that came from that, so this is a timely message for all of us, whether we’re losing people at a young age or an old age. Well thankfully James gives us some wisdom, some really good wisdom on how we navigate this deal of friendship, so we’re just going to walk through the text this morning and, if you’re listening along, we’re in James chapter 2 and we’re just going to start in verse 1 and walk through a couple of verses that James gives practical wisdom. So let me read just a portion of verse 1 here and then Keith and I will break it down. It says this: My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. So, Keith, talk to us about that personal favoritism piece.
Keith (04:17): You know that’s, I think that’s one of the hardest things that we, I don’t know, we’ve grown up and somehow, we like some people, and we don’t like others. I mean, it’s just the way it is. Maybe somebody dresses a certain way and we like, we identify more with that persona than we do with this person. Maybe I’m a football player, and maybe that person’s a cheerleader. And we’ve made distinctions, you know, right or wrong, we’ve made distinctions. And what James is saying is, “Guys, we want to be very careful here that you don’t have personal favoritism that you appreciate this person more than this person. James is saying, “I want to show you what pure evangelism looks like. I want to show you what real friendship looks like.” Because when you take the “that guy’s an athlete,” or “that guy’s a nonathlete” and you say, “it doesn’t matter,” I just want to love them for their heart. I want to be a friend. A lot of people in today’s world, Chad, they look at me and they go, “Chancey, you have such great friends,” and I do. I have very long-term friends. Over forty years, plus, of friendships that I’ve got. And these guys that I’m very very dear friends with. It’s amazing that our friendships, each one of us are uniquely different in the Lord. Our gifts are different, the things that we did growing up were different, but the one thing that we had in common was Christ. And when I understood that my commanality with people is not that I’m, you know, I just want to be around people that are like me. But I want to get into people’s world and find out about them. What’s your fear? What’s your pain? Because when you begin to cross over those boundaries, and you begin to be intentional in asking people about their life, you’re going to find out that you have a lot more in common than you ever dreamed imaginable. It was more than a sports person, it was more the something that they, they were a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or a coach. You’re going, “it doesn’t matter what they do with their career, it’s about what they do with their heart.”
Chad (06:20): That’s really good. So, the, James kind of explains it with an illustration. I won’t read the whole text, but basically, he’s saying, You ‘ve got a rich man, you’ve got a poor man, and you’re doing backflips to take care of him, and you treat the poor man, essentially with distain. So, let’s use that illustration. How do we flesh that out in our world, where we knowingly or maybe even subconsciously make distinctions. We show people favoritism because of what they can give us.
Keith (06:52): It’s interesting that we do that, because what we’ll do is we’ll look at somebody that walks in and they’ve got their gold ring, really nice watch, clothes, they’re wearing Lulu. Whatever it is they’re wearing. And all of a sudden, we go, we’ve made a distinction, we go, “well I like them.” Based on what they’re wearing. The problem with that is, we want to be liked by somebody because of what they wear, or they’re financial status. And what happens there is that it’s almost as if we’re afraid of losing that person that we never really had a relationship with in the first place. And so, we’d do anything to try to hold on to that relationship we’ve never had. Because we want to fit into their world. And so we’re going, “If I could just fit into that world, I would be, you know, I would feel better about myself.” And the problem is you’ll never feel better about yourself because you’re trying to fit into someone else’s world. You’ll only feel better about yourself when you fit into God’s world. And when you start loving people the way Philippians, what Paul says in Philippians 2. And that’s where I think that this James passage and Philippians 2 are so important. When I see others more important than myself, it’s an amazing thing of how my friendships are different.
Chad (08:01): Yeah, and James in verse 5, he gets there. He says, “Listen my beloved brethren, did not God choose the poor of the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.” So James goes, “Hey, in case you’re thinking the wrong way, in case you’re thinking about favoritism. Let me throw you a curve ball here. Let me change your perspective.” What does he have, what is he trying to help us see about faith, about God’s plan for salvation, and specifically this sin of favoritism?
Keith (08:30): Oh well, think of how odorous favoritism is. I mean, you’ve grown up your whole life, and what did you dislike in elementary school? You disliked that you might be the last kid picked in a game. You know, and you disliked that you weren’t asked to go to a party on a Friday night. There was so much pain that was involved in your elementary, junior high, high school life based upon that one word: favoritism There was distinctions. There was this feeling of, “I don’t fit in and if I was prettier, or if I was more handsome, or if I was richer, or if I drove the right car.” And so, everything distorts our value system. And along that value system that’s distorted, it creates and insecurity in me that the only way I want to be liked is to be better. And spiritually, that’s not it at all, that I need to be secure in who I am in Christ. You know? So, it’s interesting that we think somehow someway that if I just fit into this group that I’ll be happier. Happiness is not about fitting in. Happiness is standing out.
Chad (09:43): Yeah, and doesn’t that breed for especially for our young people that achiever mentality, right? Like, if I’m valuable because I have things or because I’ve achieved these things, then my value will only increase if I’m more successful. And so then we see these kids come to camp and they’re achieve achieve achieve. And then they realize that it’s just empty. There’s nothing. So, what would you say to the person who is trying to earn friendship through all of the things that they’re succeeding in, at least in their mind?
Keith (10:20): I like how you said that they’re trying to earn a friendship because you’re trying to earn a friendship, you’re never probably going to have it. You know, the way you earn something is, it’s not by being something other than who you are. If I’m trying to be different to earn something from you, I’m not me. And I like what Colossians 3:23 says, because it says it so well, and Paul did such a masterful job in saying this: In whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord and not for man. So, I’m not trying to please you Chad, I’m trying to please the Lord. And by pleasing the Lord, I’m going to be more desirable probably for the people that I’m wanting to maybe so-called impress, because I’m not trying to impress them. When you stop trying to impress people, you’re going to be more likable. And I think that’s why Philippians 2 is so good, because Paul is just making sure that we understand. You know, see others as more important. When I see you as important, I’m going to ask you things about yourself, I’m going to want to, “Hey, let’s go to your house. Hey, tell me about your parents. You know, what’s your dog’s name?” You’re going to be interested in my world, and I’m going to immediately like you more because you’re interested in me.
Chad (11:42); Yeah, so it’s not me monster, right? It’s not the person that’s constantly, “This is what’s going on with me.” But it’s, as romans 12 says, “do not think of yourself more highly than you aught, but with sober judgement, or with humility make others more important.”
Keith (11:55): When you regard others more important, you’ve done a masterful thing. Because you’ve gotten a friend. And so many people are lonely in today’s world. And they’re going, “Why am I so lonely?” And we go, “Well, you’ve made distinctions. You aren’t seeing others as important. You’re seeing yourself less important because you don’t have what they have.” And if I can see myself as important the way God made me, “I am fearfully, I’m wonderfully made” by the hands of God, and my soul should know it very very well that I am unique. I don’t need to look like others. I don’t need to dress like others. People that know me, they go, “Chancey, you’ve always got like, green, fluorescent shorts on or, you know, orange shirt. You just dress.” And I go, “you know what? I dress uniquely, but I’m not trying to get your attention.” And see, when you stop trying to get attention, you gain attention. When you’re secure in who you are… I’ll never forget there was a kid at camp one time, and this has been many many years ago, and he came, and he was talking about how that this last year at school, he went to a very affluent high school, and his parents were very very affluent, and his mom had bought him all these clothes. And he said, “Mom, I don’t really like wearing those clothes.” He said, “I don’t feel like that’s who I am.” And he said, “Could I take them back?” And she said, “Of course. I just was wanting to buy you some nice things.” And he said, “well I think you’re buying things based off what you want me to look like, but not who I am.” And I thought, “Wow, what a mature young man.” He took all the clothes back, and I don’t know how many dollars it was, but he went to a thrift store, and he bought thrift clothes, and the next week he’s at school, and this as way before the thrift stores were thrift stores, and it was almost, he said, almost as if so many kids at school changed what they were wearing and started going to the thrift store because they were tired of keeping up this image. And when he broke the norm, and went out and wasn’t afraid of what anyone else thought, everybody wanted to be like that. Isn’t that interesting? And I thought, “My gosh, why aren’t more kids like that?” And it’s because this one word: insecure. We want to fit in rather than stand out.
Chad (14:17): Yeah, we’re so desperate to fit in that we’ll do anything.
Keith (14:20): And we thing that those are friends, but they’re not friends.
Chad (14:21): Yeah, so as we close our time here. Just kind of summarize what if we were to take one or two sentences that says, “This is what James is teaching us about friendships.” What would you say?
Keith (14:35): Well, I think that James would want to make sure that you understand: quit trying to make distinctions and saying, “I’m going to like these people and not these people.” You know, go sit at a table, whether you’re an adult, or a high school, junior high kid, whoever is listening to this podcast. And you go, “You know what? I can choose where I sit for lunch, and I can choose who I engage. I don’t always have to choose just the people that are comfortable. There’s a girl that was so involved in my life as a college freshman. Her name was Pam. And she told me one day, she said, “Chancey, aren’t a Christian?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Then why don’t you act like it?” And she says, “You sit at a table with those football players.” And she identified me as a football player. She says, “And you act just like them every day.” And I never thought about that. I didn’t even know that I was acting like a football player. What she was saying was, “You’re acting like a jerk.” Because what I wasn’t doing is I wasn’t being friendly to other people. I wasn’t opening my Bible. I wasn’t praying before the meal. She said, “You’re not acting the way that I know you want to act. You’re becoming who everybody’s making you become.” And I went, “Pam, that is amazing.” And she said, “I’m just going to ask you to do me a favor.” Why don’t you start asking people to go sit with you and go have a cup of coffee with them? This was way before Starbucks or anything, and I started asking people that were not like me, no distinctions, no gold rings, no certain ways they lived or athletics. I’m just going, whether it be the musical person, whether it be the brainiac, whoever it was, I just started sitting with people and asking them about their family, and Chad, I’m going to tell you something. It changed my life. Because no longer was I making distinctions. I was making friends and loving people and accepting them for who they are , whether they’re lost did not matter, because people didn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And boy that’s when it became different for me.
Chad (16:32): That’s so good, and just a good reminder that no matter what age we’re in, no matter what season of life we’re in, it’s never too late to step up, to step out, to reach out to those around us, and find out what’s really going on in the inside. And, regardless what they look like, their station in life, we are called as ministers of the gospel to go out and to make a difference in the world and to know those people and their hearts because they’re created in the image of God as well.
Keith (16:59): Isn’t it great? And I’ll just close with this last little thing because I just think of Jesus. Where did you usually find him? Touching the leper. Healing the lame. With the woman caught in the act of adultery, with the woman at the well. You go: he was always, and then the disciples, all outcasts, you know, fishermen. And yet it seemed like he was always there, not making distinctions, but always bringing them to the revelation of Jesus Christ and what he was doing.
Chad (17:27): That’s good. Thank you for that last word. We’re so thankful you’re listening to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast. Thanks again for joining us, we’ll catch you next time.