Vol. 3, No. 4
I don't know how many times I have heard interesting sayings preceded by the words, "Mark Twain said…" Now, I enjoy a good old Mark Twain quip as much as anybody does, but I am made to wonder if he actually said everything that is attributed to him, especially in the absence of documentation. The same is true of the beloved Marshall Keeble. The very mention of his name sparks interest among old timers, but did he really say all that is credited to him? Who really knows?
More important than what either Twain or Keeble may have said is what God has said. We have a popular saying, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." Someone has revised that saying to read, "God said it. That settles it whether I believe it or not." Truthfully, all religious controversy turns on two questions: man said or God said. We follow one way or the other.
How much of religion turns upon what God said? "God said" is the basis of Bible inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16-17). "God said" is the basis of divine revelation (Deuteronomy 18:18; Galatians 1:11-12. "God said" is the basis of true worship (John 4:19-20, 22). "God said" is the basis of saving faith (Romans 10:17). "God said" will be the basis of the judgment to come (John 12:48).
In religion nothing matters but what God said. No one has to be in doubt about whether or not God said a thing. It's in the Bible!
A recent trip to a McDonald's restaurant was a pleasant experience for me. It is not the food of which I speak. I am rarely moved one way or the other on that count. It was an older gentleman, an employee, whose job it apparently was to greet and service customers, who gave my day a good start. I had to look up from my magazine and coffee and just watch him, a master at the craft of friendliness.
The old gentleman was apparently "in his element." He moved about the room graciously and provided a wide range of services. He greeted customers as they entered the door. He spoke to everybody with a friendly, "How are you, this morning?" He went around warming up people's coffee. He gassed up balloons for the children, and even some adults. He wiped off food trays and straightened up all around. The man enjoyed what he was doing and I enjoyed watching him. It felt good to be there. It was a welcome sight in a cold and crazy world. I was transfixed for a few minutes of watching friendliness in action. I hope that McDonald's pays him well, but even if they don't I have an idea that he is well rewarded.
It served to remind me that Christians have the best reasons in the world to exemplify friendliness. Here are two of those reasons, as I see them.
First, we have the inspired Old Testament reminder that, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). Others have reflected the first clause of this verse in their own words: "Let no man think he is loved by any man when he loves no man" -- Epictetus; "The only way to have a friend is to be one" -- Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nobody said it better than Solomon did. If you have trouble making friends you might ask yourself, "Am I being friendly?" Actions, not just words, are the true criterion of friendship.
No congregation of the Lord's people should ever be marked as "unfriendly." All of us have visited places where people have left that very impression upon us. It is never pleasant and we never forget it. Neither is it excusable. Every church of Christ should leave its mark on the side of friendliness exemplified. Every visitor should be greeted warmly and showered with attention, not in some artificial way, but sincerely.
The second reason we have for exemplifying friendliness is that we have Jesus as our friend -- a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). Although spoken in derision the statement is a characterization that is true: "friend of…sinners." Matthew Henry wrote, "It was true in some sense, that Christ was a Friend to publicans and sinners, the best Friend they ever had, for he came into the world to save sinners, great sinners, even the chief…" (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15). Indeed, if we would walk in the Master's footsteps we will exhibit that same friendliness to all. Friendliness does not equate with weakness and compromise of truth. Friends, not enemies tell the truth (Galatians 4:16).