Proverbs 18:24  “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

     There are many kinds of ruin.  A common kind of ruin that occurs frequently today is disillusionment about your ‘friends’ and community.  Sadly, there is a great deal of pretense in this world.  Some of it on purpose and some of it quite unconscious.  We think we know our friends only to find that we don’t.  A mentor of mine once said:  “Tony, you think people are your friends but some will turn on you in a moment when you least expect it.”  He was right and it is always a hard lesson to learn.

     How friends treat one another is influenced by the community they live in.  If deception and punishment are part of the ‘DNA’ of the community healthy friendships within it may be difficult if not impossible to develop and keep.  Everyone is busy looking good and pretending to be obedient to the authority all the while hiding their faults by exposing others.  Betrayal of confidence becomes rife.  Friendships suffer terribly;  “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”  (Proverbs 18:19)

     Jesus knew all of this and urged those in His church to use the following as a first step for dealing with  disputes; “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”  Failing that; “But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (v 16,17)  Toxic communities go right to the final step and use public shaming because in these groups it is all about control.

     If you see this sort of thing happening or if you are on the very unpleasant receiving end of this nasty kind of abuse, I have some good news for you.  You have a friend that will stick with you no matter what.  His name is Jesus. He has promised; “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8,  Hebrews 13:5)

     You need not carry the heavy burden of shame and guilt that toxic leaders try to heap upon you.  Anyone who tells you different is a liar!  Ruin can become restoration if we go to our one true Friend.  Jesus calls to us; “Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28,29)

    Praise the Lord!