APEX Youth Ministry is currently running a series called, “Friendship Matters.” We are exploring Jesus’ relationship with his inner circle and using that as a framework for modeling how we choose our own. This past Sunday we studied Jesus’ relationship with Peter. Here are some highlights from my “Main Event” talk that prompted great small group discussion between our leaders and the APEX Youth.
When I was 10 years old I was betrayed by my best friend / cousin over the empty contents of a pitcher of Kool-aid. Knowing that his mother instructed us to not drink it, we formed an unholy alliance to drink some of it and replace the contents with water. The Kool-Aid Pact of 1988 fell apart when Timmy started taking big gulps… and bigger gulps…and even bigger gulps until he had devoured every drop.
Later that evening when his mom demanded to know what happened, my heart sunk and my head spun as Timmy proclaimed, “Isaiah drank all of it. I saw him do it!” I was consequently punished and sent home. Before I left, I had one question for my now ex-best friend, “Why did you lie?” His response, “Because I didn’t want to get into trouble.”
My cousin and I shared an intimacy that was impossible to replace so I called him and told him that what he did was really mean and it hurt but I missed him and I didn’t care anymore. I accepted him back, told him we didn’t ever have to talk about it again and Timmy surprised me by muttering the words, “I’m sorry.” In that moment, Timmy seemingly transformed. For the rest of his life he never lied on me again (sometimes at great cost to himself), in fact he started looking up to me for advice, following me everywhere I went and the last thing he said to me before he died, in the same tone muttered before, was “I love you.”
In the Gospel of John we see Peter, after Jesus had been crucified, back in his hometown fishing with some of the other disciples. I often wonder what was going through Peter’s mind as he sat there reflecting over what had just transpired at Golgotha. What was he thinking as he reflected over how he denied his teacher, his friend / the Messiah in his hour of need? Was it possible for Peter to have ever found a way through his shame?
I tear up when I think about Peter and Jesus on the shore having their Kool-Aid moment. To see Peter given a chance to wipe his shame away and to see Jesus transition Peter from that shame to a man transformed finally into the “rock”, is such an intimate and formative scene. We see Peter, a man who once ran from the call of the cross, now fully embracing it as his reality and walking faithfully towards it.
How do we attract friends into our lives that have the same ability to transition us from shame to becoming our best selves? In John 15:9-17, Jesus said, 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you… 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Another way of putting this is to say, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You will attract disciple quality people to you, if you become a disciple quality person. Do you want a friend who is loyal? Well, be a loyal friend. Do you want a friend who loves you? Well, love your friends. Do you want a friend who will speak truth into your life and help you to be your best self? Well, be that type of person for your friends.
Meanwhile, I know life is challenging and you all have a lot of things coming at you everyday. That’s why you have your APEX Youth leaders. We want to answer any questions you have and we want to walk beside you through the frustration and confusion. We will be with you while you sort out and build up your network of trusted and meaningful friends. After all, doing that is what our closest friends do for us.
We’ve got your back and we are here for you!