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The Dark Side of Friendships

Dr. Stephen Phinney

My mentor, Dr. David Jeremiah, said,

“Everyone we meet is a hero waiting to happen. When Jesus saw people, He envisioned their potential. No respecter of persons, He associated with people from all walks of life.”


My reply was not as positive. “My experience with “friends” typically results in betrayal, Christianized lies, fake love, and a bewildering sense of ambiguity.”

Let’s be truthful. There is a dark side to all friendships. People, in general, indwelt by Christ or not, have a dark side (flesh) that enjoys demanding control over relationships. Seriously, look at Jesus’s supposed friends. The only disciple that remained loyal to the end was the “beloved John.” One disciple sold him to the enemy, and the other ten disciples hid in the dark corners of ambiguity. During all this, Jesus’s Father stepped back from His Son while hanging on the Cross – resulting in Jesus “feeling” such loneliness that he said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Like most outspoken Christians, I have had my share of betrayal and isolation in friendships. God knows that when we make His priorities our priorities, our relationships become opportunities for refinement. None of God’s Bridal members are chosen for His Son based on faithfulness and loyalty. Jesus knew ahead of time that 90% of His disciples would fall asleep on Him in His darkest hour. He also knew that each would hide behind the skirt of fear when associating themselves with their Savior under pressure. However, He also knew this was the refining process of devoted, unmovable loyalty that Christ could count on after His resurrection. It was as if betrayal was a phase for loyalists. Or maybe He needed to act out His own words, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

Did His disciples persecute Him? Without a doubt. Betrayal is the type of persecution that His enemy, Satan, has used on Him since he tried to pick a fight with Jesus before the world’s creation. Betrayal is the action of disloyalty, treachery, perfidiousness, fake faith, faithlessness, falseness, duplicity, deception, and double-dealing. My favorite is “double-dealing,” which is a covert action of making a deal with the devil while presenting a deal with the God of the universe. Putting that in human relationships is making a deal with the “accuser of the brethren” while using fake love with fellow Bridal members of Christ to front them with their hangnails. Ouch.

There is only one thing to do with betrayal: Say “thank you” and embrace it. I have learned that when betrayal arrives in a relationship, God’s refining fire is delivered by His Holy sovereignty and love for me. Since He knows these relationships can ultimately become faith heroes in the long run, He is relentless until we become motivated to turn an enemy into a friend. Jesus had to do that with 90% of all of His relationships. The refining fire is to be remembered – it reminds us of the cost Jesus paid for being our Friend and Savior. I agree, the world says everything happens randomly, without reason, but Jesus reminds us that God works all things together for good.

Certainly, betrayal doesn’t have an ounce of “feel good” while perpetrating in our lives. If you are like me, the temptation is to run and hide – not hug it like a faithful friend. Yes, I said “faithful friend.” In a world that views betrayal as an excuse to detach, we must realize that betrayal is outnumbered by the reasons God has appointed for the betrayal. As soon as I see a “friendship” begin to look more like the “accuser of the brethren,” I do something that appears to be odd to observers. I detach the betrayal from the person, look toward Heaven, and ask the Lord to empower me to embrace the betrayal as a friend. You know, consider it all joy when you encounter various trials. As soon as I do this, I become mission-minded in turning the person hosting the betrayal into a friend – a hero of faith. I can’t say it works every time, but on the other hand, I’m not dead yet.

Jesus’s half-brother said these odd words:

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

Friendship is one of the top ten trending words on the internet. Surprise! The masses, unsaved and indwelt alike, are obsessed over choosing friendships over the absolute God. In discipleship sessions, I often take out my scissors and ask the person to cut the James passage out of the Bible and other absolute passages that cause them to be uncomfortable. Some laugh and others look at me like I am crazy. Fortunately, not one person in 40+ years of counseling has grabbed the scissors. However, some never returned for further sessions.

A passage ignored in the Word is “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” John stated, If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. Do we not realize that the friendship and the love of God the Father offered us come with a condition? The condition is in our passages. We must be willing to sacrifice all friendships with the world in exchange for the ultimate friendship of eternity. When we switch those two around, hostility, antagonism, unfriendliness, bitterness, violence, malice, unkindness, spite, spitefulness, wrath, anger, and hatred dominate our “walk in Christ.” If you haven’t noticed these manifestations in Christendom, your eyes are wide shut.

The fragrance of a flower crushed is on the heel of the one who crushed it.

There is a profound message in that statement. We outspoken believers, much like a fragrant flower, get stepped on by family, “friends,” loved ones, and strangers alike. The beauty of this parable is it leaves the persecutor with the fragrance of the Lord even after their deplorable deeds of betrayal. Each time they put on those shoes, they are reminded of the gentle, compassionate, and loving way the persecuted one received the persecution as a friend. When an authentic believer discovers and takes action on this refined Truth, ministry doors are opened wide.

Yesterday I was in a two-hour commentary on a leading news channel. The discussion was over the sentencing of a youth who murdered 17 people in a school shooting. The jury gave him ‘life in prison’ vs. the ‘death penalty.’ My opening comment went something like this. While we all acknowledge that this young man deserves death, I have a more refreshing perspective on this demise. We all should be thankful the ‘life sentence’ gives us an extended opportunity to pray that this young man is led to Jesus Christ’s life-saving power for salvation. This led to a two-hour discussion exposing hatred like I had not seen in some time. And then I said the unthinkable. I get why you all are upset over this situation. However, the hatred revealed in our dialogue is no different than the hatred this young man displayed in his murders. The difference is – he used a bullet, and most of you use your words. The difference between the two is the ramifications. The difference regarding hatred is none. The hate responses got so horrific that the network had to shut off the commentary dialogue. We all got ‘canceled.’

Pride loves sleeping with hatred. Pride is always thirsty for blood. Humility, on the other hand, stands up by itself. It is unwavering in righteousness. Humility defends Truth, while hatred makes up lies to defend itself. The result is hatred advocates blindness, while humility opens the eyes of the foolish. If the foolish tighten their eyes all the more, their blindness will bring judgment upon them in the end and a few cases, Grace.

Persecution and trials function like a refining fire ordained to burn off every impurity of self-righteousness. When it is our friend, it causes humility to overthrow darkness while granting confidence in persecution that leaves a testimony in Christ. Christ thus wins in the end. What do we get out of the deal? Maybe, just maybe, we will see Christ turn our enemies into heroes of faith – people who are worthy of a friendship in Jesus.


Consider watching our latest documentary, "Enemy of Truth."

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