Friday, November 21, 2008

Rending and Mending

A time to rend, and a time to sew…

                        Ecclesiastes 3.7

Imperfect Fits

My partner and I are obsessed with “Project Runway,” Bravo’s fashion designer competition. One of its trademark moments comes as time runs out. A designer transfers his/her creation from mannequin to model and discovers how imperfectly it fits. The outfit gets ripped apart and reconstructed for a more flattering fit. It’s a huge risk. The show milks the tension, suggesting the designer might face his/her judges empty-handed. But always, in the end, it’s the right thing to do.

Our lives bring similar challenges. We apply imagination to time and resources we’re given in hopes of pleasing our Judge. Sometimes what looks so clever in theory fizzles out in real life. It just doesn’t fit. We can keep what we’ve got, pretending we don’t notice how unflattering it is and hoping no one else—God most of all—sees the disaster we’ve fashioned. Or we can risk tearing it apart and reconstructing it so it works. We may find there’s too much going on, too many unnecessary pieces complicating the design. On the other hand, we may learn previously eliminated parts contribute more to the design than we first thought. Rending times and mending times are typically fraught with anxiety. But, in the end, fixing our mistakes is the right—the best—thing to do.


Parents and teachers encourage us to amass friends because being well-liked signals character. The notion carries forward as we grow up. How we get along with colleagues and neighbors plays a major factor in how we do on the job and in the community. Then, when we decide to follow Christ, we couple what we’re taught about popularity with His commandment to love everyone. Equating indiscriminate friendship with unconditional love can lead to trouble, though. We can over-accessorize our lives with friendships that distract from, rather than enhance, the godly image we want to convey.

“A man of many companions may come to ruin,” Solomon says in Proverbs 18.24. Seeking popularity exposes us to many hazards. It puts us in company and situations that bring us no good. For the sake of building and maintaining friendships, we make concessions that confound our desire to freely express God’s love. It’s essential to distinguish tolerant love from friendly indulgence. They’re not the same. Love accepts people as they are without condemnation. Indulgence accepts what people do—an altogether different proposition. Leading friends to believe their attitudes and behaviors are OK with us leaves us nowhere to stand when asked to join them. And friends who pressure us to participate in unacceptable activities aren’t true friends. They’re liabilities. They detract from our design. Difficult though it may be, the time comes to rend their influence over us without rejecting them as unlovable.

Patching Things Up

In counterpoint to ridding ourselves of unprofitable friendships, we face an equally tough challenge: mending torn, beneficial ones. Stubbornness, pride, jealousy, and other unnecessary weight we carry can fray good friendships until they finally burst their seams. But as we mature in Christ, much of what pushed them past their breaking points falls away. We slim down, if you will. Greater experience and knowledge reveal how much these estranged friends added to us. Patching things up asks many things—honesty, humility, and courage chief among them. Yet it’s imperative because until these cast-aside friendships are mended, we won’t fully please God with our reconstructed lives.

Solomon balances caution against many false friends with admonition to treasure true ones, saying, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” These people never leave us voluntarily; we send them away. We could rationalize not redressing the situation—what’s done is done, they’ve moved on, they’ll never trust me, etc.—were it not for what Jesus explicitly teaches in Matthew 5.23-24: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you… first go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Mending healthy friendships takes precedence over worship, He says. Rending harmful friendships removes risks that impede worship. “There’s a time to rend and a time to sew,” Solomon tells us. Both times call for decisions that ultimately determine how we’re judged on the runway.


In designing the "look" of our lives, what seems good in theory may not properly fit our purpose. Unflattering friendships need rending; essential torn ones need mending.

(Tomorrow: Discretion and Discussion)

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