This Christmas I received some books as gifts - some of my favorite gifts to receive! One of the books was a short novel by Frederick Buechner, Godric. Previously I had read another novel of his, On the Road with the Archangel, and had recommended it to others. Hence the gift of another Buechner novel.Buechner is great fun to read and I highly recommend him, but the opening line of Godric is a grabber: "Five friends I had, and two of them were snakes." He goes on to colorfully and fondly - but not always - describe his friends in the first chapter. Which is only as far as I've gotten. (This is going to be a good book!) Just as Buechner is closing the first chapter, he writes: "That's five friends, one for each of Jesu's wounds, and Godric bears their mark still on what's left of him as in their time they all bore his on them. What's friendship, when all's done, but the giving and taking of wounds?"
Indeed, what's friendship but the giving and taking of wounds? In our day, we are awash in sentimentalism and have handily and readily avoided bedrock realizations of relationship. We can wax sweetly about friendship and all it's joys. But, what about all it's pains?
I believe that friends are one of the greatest gifts that God gives us - a balm and refreshment on our weary road. Sometimes He gives us friends for seasons and times, sometimes He gives us friends for a lifetime. Those are the rare and most precious kind, and it's usually in those types of friendships that we do indeed give and are given wounds. Proverbs 17:9 says, "Whoever covers a offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends." This speaks directly about gossip, I believe, but I also think it speaks more deeply about forgiveness. Scripture is plain throughout about not ignoring sin - it should be lovingly and honestly confronted and worked through, (Justice and mercy kiss.) and that can't be accomplished without forgiveness. 'Friendship is a terrible thing to waste', to paraphrase an old advertisement. As we live and love one another, forgiving one another, the foundations of friendship and relationship can grow deeper and stronger. Gold purified by fire is precious indeed.
But, there is more to it than just the advantage of friendship, for in fact, Jesus requires us to forgive. We don't have to read much of the New Testament to realize that forgiveness is pretty high on the list. Even the short prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray included "... and forgive us debts as we forgive our debtors." I - who was in sin from my conception - was forgiven ALL by the blood payment of Christ, so who am I to withhold my forgiveness no matter what the offense? For as many wounds as I have received from friends, I have surely given.
Thanks, Frederick Buechner, for bringing this to my attention. I can't wait to see what's in Chapter 2!