Sunday, May 29, 2011

Greater love hath no man...

This is one of a continuing series of lessons prepared from the 2011 Gospel Doctrine Manual: The New Testament. The lesson today includes material found in John 12:1-8. This lesson is also posted here.

Scriptural Background
This lesson finds Christ preparing to enter Jerusalem to suffer his passion and fulfill his ultimate mission through the sacrifice of his blood. He knew the awful ordeal that awaited him and in all likelihood viewed its impending horror with trepidation. He understood the adulation of the crowds that followed him; that ultimately they would leave him and he would stand alone, shouldering the sins of all mankind as a final act of love and surrender. The burden of the coming days weighed heavily on him and he suffered. In his suffering, as any man might do, he longed for solace and support, for the companionship and association that comes only from those that know him well and love him as a result of that knowledge. It was this desire to be with friends one last time that led him to the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

Based on scripture, we know these three siblings were a family of some means and reputation that lived in Bethany, a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Christ loved them and most scholars consider Lazarus and his sisters to be among Jesus’ closest followers. He wept before raising Lazarus from the dead and acknowledged his love for Lazarus and his sisters openly.

On his last day before the drama of the end began Jesus sought these precious friends and found within their home and embrace, the love and support that strengthened him and propelled him to face what had to be faced.

The Lesson
One of the most basic of human needs involves feelings of
belongingness—the desire for friendship and intimacy. Based on current research, friendship lengthens life, improves brain function, and enhances motor skills. Interacting with friends protects individuals from stress, depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness. According to Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, friendship has a bigger impact on our psychological well-being than family relationships.

It was for this reason that Christ, in his last days, sought out the companionship of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. He understood the impact his friends could have on his confidence and well-being during the impending trial and suffering that he was about to face.

I have written in the past about the need for friends (go here) and intimacy (go here) and the positive role friends can play in the coming out process. Just as Jesus relied on friends for support prior to his passion, our friends can serve a profound positive role as we transition from the closet. Nurturing those friendships and building those relationships into something that is lasting is essential.

It is interesting, however, how difficult it is for some people to establish friendships. Let me suggest a few pointers to facilitate the process.
  • Get out and about. If you want to make friends, you need to put yourself in situations where you are going to meet people who are like you. If you are a gardener, join the Alternative Garden Club. If you sing, there is the Salt Lake (Gay) Men’s Choir. If you like to dance and party, there is always Jam or Try-Angles on the weekend. Ultimately, you’ve got to walk away from your computer games and get involved in something constructive.
  • Talk to people. While starting a conversation with someone you don’t know can seem daunting, all you really have to do is ask a question or two to get things going or to offer a sincere compliment or positive observation. Introduce yourself. Sometimes this is the most difficult part of an initial meeting. It can be accomplished by simply saying, “Oh, by the way, my name is….” Typically, the other person will follow by offering his name in return. Once you know the other person’s name, remember it by calling the person by name several times during the conversation. 
  • Initiate a follow-up meeting. This can be a quick time out for lunch or coffee or an invitation to attend a club meeting, sports activity, church or concert. 
  • Don’t pressure someone into being friends. Take friendship slowly and don’t force intimacy. 
  • Be a good friend yourself. Do your part to build and sustain a friendship by initiating activities, asking about feelings, and remembering birthdays or other special events. 
  • Show respect. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t be late. Don’t take advantage. Treat your new friend with the respect and consideration you would expect from him. 
  • Show loyalty and integrity. Part of being a friend involves a willingness to sacrifice time and energy to support your friend. It also involves being honest and trustworthy. You’ve got to be willing to do what it takes to make your friend your friend and build the relationship. 
As I have said in a previous post, I thank God daily for my friends and the charity, that pure love of Christ, they have shown me. My life is good because of them. My life is rich because of them. I am confident and at peace because of them. My life has meaning because of my love for them.

I hope that each of us can be a friend to others as my friends have been to me. That small deed would add so much love and hope to our lives and to the world in which we all often struggle.

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