"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Frances and I were talking this morning about the blessing that patient and kindly affectioned friends are to us. Indeed, one of the great truths about human friendship is that at times we fail each other, whether in minor details (forgetting commitments, being late for get togethers, careless words, etc), or in major and inexcusable acts of commission or omission. Failure to understand this about our friends - and ourselves - makes deep and longlasting friendship uncertain at best, and impossible at worst.
A measure of mercy, a big measure of mercy, provides a large part of the spiritual glue that binds Christian friendship and fellowship. No friend of ours is yet glorified, nor are we. Expecting lapses of faithfulness, without excusing them, must therefore form our understanding of relationships with those whom God graciously brings into our lives. True friends understand this, speak honestly to each other about it when necessary, and thereby encourage each other to faithful commitment to the relationship, and unfailing mercy when steps falter.
Paul writes that it is "for Christ's sake" that we relate to each other in such grace. The Lord Jesus is glorified and revealed in godly friendships, and this is actually the primary reason for our bonds of affection. It is a sublime thing to realize that God brings people into our lives in order reveal the loving and joyous devotion to each other that exists in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and which now resides in us if we have believed. "I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them... the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us" (John 17:26; Romans 5:5). An eternally ancient bond reveals itself in good and godly friendships, and the love of God is known in ways that can only be revealed in this blessed way.
There is no need for mercy between the persons of the Godhead. There is much needed, however, between the children of the Godhead. Thus, a wondrous aspect of the character of God displays itself in us that can be known only as the human heart receives His forgiveness, and then becomes its holy means of transmission to others. Our friendships provide a wonderful vehicle for the glory, and let us expect much opportunity to "be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
"A man that hath friends must show himself friendly."