More Thoughts on Friends Who Fail You

More Thoughts on Friends Who Fail You

Last Sunday’s message struck a chord with many when I spoke of Christian friends letting you down. I argued that sometimes they forsake you never to return — like Demas. He loved “the present world,” and so abandoned the great apostle who craved the Lord’s appearing more than he craved the world (2 Timothy 4:8).

And, even more relevant, we saw that many friends let you down but can and should remain your friends and your partners in ministry. Paul said that nobody from his team or from the church in Rome showed up to stand by him at his trial (2 Timothy 4:16). Nobody. Not Luke or Eubulus or Pudens or Linus or Claudia or any of “the brothers” (2 Timothy 4:21).

Nevertheless Paul graciously includes them with himself in greeting Timothy, and writes, “May it not be charged against them!” (2 Timothy 4:16). Amazing. Beautiful. Their fellowship survived this painful moment of abandonment.

After the sermon one of my own partners in ministry, Amanda Knoke, Director of Communications at Bethlehem, pointed me to C. S. Lewis’s wise words on this issue. Here’s what he said to “An American Lady.”

I think what one has to remember when people “hurt” one is that in 99 cases out of a 100 they intended to hurt very much less, or not at all, and are often quite unconscious of the whole thing. I’ve learned this from the cases in which I was the “hurter.” When I have been really wicked and angry and meant to be nasty, the other party never cared or even didn’t notice. On the other hand, when I have found out afterwards that I had deeply hurt someone, it has nearly always been quite unconscious on my part. (C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Grand Rapids, 1967, 57)

Amanda connected this with Proverbs. 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Yes. And we should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who was abandoned by all 11 of his apostles, and was denied by Peter. Then he built the church on them!

We look to Jesus not only because he was the great model of holding onto friends who let him down, but also because he died and rose again to be the joyful bond of broken and restored friendships.

So keep Jesus before your eyes, and pray this into your heart: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:7–8).

Whatever you do, don’t let the failure of your Christian friends become the basis for abandoning the one Friend who never fails.


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John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.