Bible Verse: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Scripture Reading: Luke 6:1-16

Scientists have discovered that human beings tend to imitate one another. Our brains have specialized cells called mirror neurons that cause us to mimic what other people are doing. These mirror neurons also mimic other people’s feelings.

According to the philosopher René Girard, not only do we imitate other people’s physical actions and emotions, but we also unconsciously mimic their desires. Desires are contagious. However, the transmission of desires and values doesn’t work indiscriminately. Our relationship to the person determines how much we will be influenced by them. The closer we are to someone and the more we respect them, the more they will influence us.

And this influence can extend from tiny choices about what we will eat for lunch to big decisions that affect the trajectory of our lives. The people we associate with can profoundly influence our vision. God can use our friends to transform our desires, so that we are not ambitious for ambition itself, but rather ambitious to serve a higher calling.

According to the Gospels, Jesus stayed up all night twice – most famously in the garden of Gethsemane, on the night before his death on the cross (Luke 22:39-46). But at the beginning of his public ministry, he also prayed until dawn prior to calling his closest friends (Luke 6:12-16). The fact that Jesus spent that entire night asking God to guide him in the selection of the twelve disciples reveals how important it was to discern who God had chosen for him.

In the same way, we can pray our way toward the friendships God has ordained for our mutual encouragement. If you’re not currently in a spiritual friendship that inspires you toward Christ and his call upon your life, pray about initiating a connection with someone who might become a friend on the journey. Consider inviting this person to get together for lunch or coffee so that you can begin to explore whether there is a mutual desire to meet (or talk by phone or Skype) on a regular basis for a season.

For most people, friendship does not feel like an urgent priority. But if friendships are truly important to us, we will take the initiative to cultivate them. It’s one thing to say we value friendships, but this doesn’t mean anything if we don’t take action.

If we want to reap lasting friendships of mutual transformation, we need to sow into the lives of those people who have been woven into our lives. As we deepen our friendships with Jesus Christ, we become the kind of friend our hearts long for and receive the friends God has for us. The Christian faith was never meant to be practiced as a solo trek but rather as a team race. We can remain faithful to God and his calling on our lives when we intentionally walk with a fellow pilgrim or two, encouraging one another to stay true on our journey – even when the way is costly.

— Ken Shigematsu in Survival Guide for the Soul: How to Flourish Spiritually in a World that Pressures Us to Achieve. Copyright © 2018 by Ken Shigematsu

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