The Lord is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant. Psalm 25:14 NLT
We’ve all heard it said, parents and teachers cannot be friends with their children. They have to be disciplinarians instead. I saw a meme on Facebook where a mother was telling her child, “I am not your friend. I will discipline you when you need it. I will always be watching you and needing to know where you are every second.” To me, that sounds exactly like a friend! When talking about parents and teachers being friends with their kids, maybe we just need a broader view of friendship. There is more to being friends than going shopping or golfing together and then out to eat. Actually I have many friends with whom I have never done any of those things. To me, the discipline and accountability all fall under friendship.
A friend of mine in Texas summed it up wisely I believe. She said, “While I can’t be friends with my child who is rebellious, I can be friends with my child who is obedient.” Of course I still believe she was being a real friend by disciplining her child who was rebellious. Even so I appreciate the point that she made that a parent and teacher can be friends with an obedient child. As the psalm above tells us, that the Lord is a friend to those who fear (respect) Him. I understand that the goal of the covenant He teaches us is friendship.
The goal of the atonement is friendship. The goal of the covenant is friendship. While I have never had children of my own, I have had countless students over the years in the Adventist schools where I have helped out. Disciplining children to learn has opened my eyes to my own teachers so long ago. The teacher who I despised for making me stay after school to get my work done I now see was truly my friend. At dismissal time she could have told herself that she had done all she was paid to do and gone on about her day, but instead she gave up her own time to make me succeed. It did not matter to her that it made me upset with her. She cared so much about my future successes that she was willing to make me hate her if that is what it took for me to succeed. Now that is what I call a real friend!
Now as a teacher and mentor, I often have to be the “enemy” when I am really being a friend. As a matter of fact, as I was just now writing this, it occurred to me that if a child is set on self-destruction then, in their mind, I really am their enemy by foiling their self-destruction. Even so, in my mind I am still being a friend. I am at peace with the fact that there are several young people out there who consider me an enemy because I held them accountable to be their best. At the same time, while gift cards and treats are nice during teacher appreciation week, nothing is more meaningful to me than when years later former students call me up or even send a text, asking me a Bible question or sharing a prayer request. Sometimes they will share a warm memory assuring me my time and efforts were worthwhile. Even though I have never “hung out” with them, even so with all the time spent in the classroom together I still consider them my friends. The fact that they contact me years later when they have a need tells me they consider me a friend. Again there is a lot more to friendship than golfing and sharing nachos together.
When I study the covenant I see that Jesus is interested in my friendship. If I am respectful and obedient I am more than His servant. I am His friend.
You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. John 15:14-15 NLT
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