Friendship From the Margins

Rodger Woodworth

Christians are often like porcupines in a snowstorm. We need each other to keep warm, but we prick each other if we get too close.  Our political ideologies, our racial mistrust, and even our theological differences keep us from forming deep friendships across such dividing lines.  Yet it is possible that these identified outsiders may be the very instrument God wants to use as his providential grace in our lives. 

It happened to Jeremiah.  He had already been put in prison but some government officials convinced King Zedikiah that Jeremiah’s continued preaching from his cell was seditious.  These princes had him lowered into an empty cistern with a layer of mud at the bottom and left him to die.  While Jeremiah was not exactly popular or successful at the time, he was not friendless.  A man named Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian, a Black man, an outsider who had no legal standing, goes against the crushing wave of opinion to confront the injustice done to Jeremiah.   He gets permission from the King to organize a rescue party.  He even got some rags to put under the prophet’s arms so the ropes wouldn’t burn as he pulled his friend up from the miry pit.

Life is hard and none of us are self sufficient, we are not meant to live a life of proud independence.  We often find it easier to give friendship than to receive it because it exposes our weaknesses, especially when the help comes from the margins, outsiders who differ from us.  “God chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful” (1 Corinthians 1:27).  When we fortify ourselves behind ideologies, race and dogmas and classify people into categories we cut ourselves off from a wide spectrum of friendships that may be God’s help and hope in our time of need.

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