The only thing harder than having a good friend is being one

I couldn’t get away with a lot when I was growing up. I’m the older child in the family, and regardless of how parents try to raise all children the same way, expectations are different for the older sibling. They just are. Not saying my brother got away with a whole heck of a lot either (he was the good child anyway), but even outside of the home, I always felt held to a stricter standard. I was the oldest. I should know better and set a good example.

Talk to other older children, and you might hear the same thing. It’s pretty common. And while it might have been irritating when I was little, as an adult, however, I can genuinely say I’m thankful for it.

I don’t know where we get the idea that going easy on people is best for them. Now, I don’t mean that to promote abuse or cruelty of any sort. But if you have someone you’re raising or someone you’re mentoring, if you make allowances for the things they say and do that are wrong, you aren’t doing them any favors. You’re teaching them that it’s acceptable to stop trying to do their best. You’re teaching that it’s okay to give up.

It’s not easy to do, especially if you have a compassionate streak and want to be kind to people, but you have to see the bigger picture. You can’t make excuses for bad behavior simply because you don’t want to upset somebody.

saltToday’s verse is Matthew 5:13.

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

This was a statement that Jesus made in one of His most famous sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s always resonated with me. It tells us a lot about who Jesus is, because He doesn’t pull punches, especially with people who say they follow Him.

What Jesus is talking about here is the fact that salt is both a preserver and a disinfectant. People would pack meat in salt to keep it good for extended periods of time, and doctors would put salt in wounds to cleanse them. And, yes, it hurt. A lot. But when salt got old, it would lost its potency, and when it lost the qualities that gave it purpose, it was no good for anyone’s use.

Jesus is comparing His followers to salt. We are here on Earth to preserve what is good and “cleanse” what is bad. Cleanse is probably not the best word. More like irritate what’s bad. Because it’s not that a Christian is supposed to walk around wiping out bad elements from society, but we aren’t supposed to run away and back down when society tries to get us to do what God says is wrong.

It’s tempting to be an undercover Christian in our world today. It’s so much easier just to keep our mouths shut. That’s usually the road I take, but I’m not sure that’s the road I’m supposed to be on. But what’s worse is a Christ-follower who’s forgotten what it means to follow Christ. A Christ-follower who follows the world is confused and uncertain and practically indistinguishable from those who don’t follow Christ.

And what I love about Jesus is that He loves us enough to tell us this. He knows the kind of life that we need to be living, and if we say we’re His followers, shouldn’t we do what He says?

Jesus is our Lord and our Savior, but if you follow Him, He’s also your friend. And it takes a strong person to stand up to friends and tell them they’re going the wrong direction. If that’s you, don’t take it as criticism or meanness or some of threat. It’s not. It’s words from a friend telling you that if you don’t change your mind, you’re going to be in trouble.

It’s a hard thing, to be a good friend. It’s also hard to have a good friend, especially if they’re the ones who can keep you on the straight and narrow. But those are the people you want in your life. Those are the people who you’ll look back and thank later on down the road.

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