Purchase at Amazon, Books A Million, Barnes & Noble, and Monergism Books
It is nearly impossible to turn on the television and not hear a story about someone self-identifying as another gender, race, or etc. We live in a culture that teaches you that you can be whatever you want to be, but being who you are is never enough. When you come to the story of Jacob, Rachel, and Leah, we may be quick to jump the the conclusion that Leah and her response to how Jacob treated her was crazy. Leah begins naming her children with hopes of gaining the attention of Jacob. If we were honest we are more like Leah than we want to admit. We long for the attention of others. We work for identity in our friendships. How often do you see people who have changed everything about themselves just to fit into a certain crowd? Rather than friends enjoying diversity and the unique aspects of who are you, you feel like you have to change who you are in order to be who you think they want you to be. In our friendships we often work incredibly hard to hide who we really are from our friends. We create false identities in hopes that our friends will like us more. You may think you are not attractive or fit enough, so you strive to change your appearance in hopes that you will be better accepted. Living a healthy lifestyle is not wrong, but your motivation should never be to make others care more about you. The series Authentic Manhood is spot on when it says, “Men are taught to work for identity and not from identity.” What it says about men applies to all of humanity. Society tells you that you need to work for your identity. Society tells you that if you are going to be something that you must move up the corporate ladder, have the nice things, and know the right people. “In competitive sports this is true as well. An athlete is only as good as his last pass, catch, or shot. Instead of working from a place of shalom (i.e., peace which comes from God) and peace in your heart, which God gives you, you work to attain that peace and you can never rest because you never are quite good enough. So winning becomes everything and losing is devastating.” Scripture tells a different story. “When you have the shalom of God already in your heart you can take both winning and losing in stride.” Scripture tells you that you are greater than what you own, how you look, and where you work. The story of Rachel and Leah does not end with Leah in disparity, without hope, or an identity.
Leah has several children with Jacob. One of those children was named Judah. It is through Judah that Jesus the messiah would come. In John 4 Jesus arrives at a setting, quite similar to the one where Isaac met Rebecca, quite similar to the one where Jacob met Rachel. Jesus arrives at a well. We are told that this well is no ordinary well, but it is known as the “well of Jacob.” Here at the well Jesus meets a woman similar to Leah. This woman is both spiritually unattractive and unloved. This particular woman has had several husbands and the man that she was living with was not even her husband. This woman has gathered at Jacob’s well to receive water that would briefly sustain her for her daily labor. Water from the well of Jacob may sustain her momentarily, but the water from the man that she met at the well on this particular day would make it so that she will never thirst again. Jesus and this woman begin to converse. The woman spoke to Jesus saying, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” Jacob served fourteen years to receive his beautiful wife Rachel. Jesus gives his entire life for this unattractive and unloved woman. This unloved woman received a new identity from Jesus. After receiving a new identity this woman goes out and shares the good news of everything she had heard from this man. As a result of her ministry we are told, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony (John 4:39a). All people are like this spiritually unattractive woman until Christ gives them a new identity. A new problem arises once we receive our identity. Christians often forget that they have been made new creations. Christians experience a sort of spiritual amnesia. Christians start forgetting who they are and what they have been saved from and to. Because of this spiritual amnesia a vital component of a Christian friendship is reminding each other who they are in Christ.
Spiritual disciplines are a vital part of the Christian life. Sometimes we wrongly view these vital aspects of the Christian life as the ultimate thing. We start to think God is not happy with me because I missed my quiet time this morning or God is not happy with me because I overslept and did not spend enough time in prayer. We slowly start to think that our standing with the Lord is based upon our daily performance. The Christian’s right-standing with the Lord is based upon Christ’s righteousness. The Christian never moves past this point. Gerhard Forde is helpful in explaining how all of the Christian life is tied back to a person’s righteousness in Christ. Forde says that sanctification [i.e., everything after the moment that a person is justified] is “simply the art of getting used to justification.” What Forde means by this is that, the Christian life is about learning to live in light of our new identity.
If you have ever visited another country, you know that there is a period of time where you have to adjust to the new culture. Some cultures have different eating habits, dress attire, shopping style, food options, and etc. When a person visits a new country he has to learn how to live in his new enviroment. Likewise, the Christian will spend his entire life learning what it means to be a member of a different kingdom while living here on earth. The Christian learns to live life as a part of a new humanity. We were like the woman at the well, spiritually unattractive and deserving nothing. Christ came and gave us a new identity. Christ came and made beautify what was formerly unattractive and unloved. Our beauty is now bound up in Christ and his righteousness. We now live on the other side of the cross. We are like a person visiting a foreign country. We are learning “to get used our justification.” This learning process is not something that can be done alone. A person that has been transformed by the gospel is called to help his brothers learn to live life in their new identity.
This type of friendship involves regularly helping others find their value and worth not in things of this world, but in their identity with the Lord. This sort of friendship reminds his conscience laden brother that Christ is bigger than how he feels about himself. Christian friendship involves helping his brother fight spiritual amnesia. This person reminds his fellow brothers and sisters of their new identity and what they have been saved from and saved to. Those who find their identity in the Lord are revitalized and strengthened by God’s word. We will examine in the next chapter how scripture must be at the center Gospel Transformed Friendship.