The 3rd part of my Best Friends series concludes with a story about a friendship that developed in the church. I’ve had many great relationships in the church since I was baptized in 1994. Javier Amaya, Jack McGee, Flavio Uribe, Anthony Battle, Steve Bowen, Andrew Giambarba, Phillip Jackson, Russ Ward, Angelo Cruz, Wysmar Clealand, Ralph Ojeda, Derek Francis, Chris Barrow, Joe Vogel, Joe Stearns, and Tony Fernandez. I’m sure I’m missing others, but my greatest friend of all was Neil. I met Neil about 20 years ago at the new home of John and Pat Brush. We both showed up to help them move into their new home in Broward County. I’d never seen or heard of Neil before, but while we were waiting for the van of furnishings, we learned our daughters and sons were the same age. We both loved sports and collecting memorabilia, and fishing. We both had Jewish backgrounds and upbringings we rejected. He had his own business and unusually very wealthy for a Christian. Neil and his wife Mary had recently moved to Pembroke Pines from Northern Florida, just a few minutes from my home. He seemed like a strong, faithful Christian and demonstrated generosity regularly. We almost instantly became best friends and spoke to one another daily and saw each other most days. Our wives and children became best friends and our families became inseparable. We vacationed together, spent every holiday together, and shared every detail of our lives with one another. When I was between jobs, Neil offered to start a business together. When I decided to get back into my previous field a year later, he helped me get out of debt. Our families were together when they returned from China with their 2 new adopted daughters, and we treated their children as our own. Neil had a weakness and at times he was secretive about it. I won’t go into all the reasons, but Neil struggled being attracted to women outside his marriage. Most of the time we handled it together. Once he took a step over the line and he and his wife had some emergency counseling over a 3 day period preserving their family and things were better for a few years. When I noticed the sinful pattern redeveloping, I tried to talk to him, but he denied everything. One day, after a vague explanation of what he was doing after church, I followed him. I lost him during the pursuit, but he clearly was not being truthful with me. He got very angry when I confronted him about it, and insisted nothing was going on. A week later, his son pocket dialed his mom and forgot the phone in his father’s car when he got out for school. A minute later, Mary heard an entire conversation between Neil and another woman, planning a “business trip” to Chicago together. This confrontation was volcanic and this time Neil refused to seek counseling and opted to move out. Despite the efforts of myself and leaders in the church, Neil fell away and continued the extramarital relationship. I did my best to remain friends over the next few months and urge him to repent and return to his family, but he refused. His life became more and more dissimilar to mine, and my wife was concerned that I may be influenced, and she finally said Neil and I could no longer be friends. This felt as devastating to me as it was to his family. Eventually the calls ended and I stopped visiting him. I’ve had a difficult time replacing that relationship. I have many friends in the church but none are as close as that one, even many years later, though I’m still trying. It gets harder after
Today is part 3 of our BONDED series with a question… Have you ever met someone that later you wish you’d never met? Sometimes we get mixed up with the wrong people. Most sin usually starts with doing it with someone else. It’s the people we’ve met that are connected to our greatest regrets. Choosing our friends wisely could be the most important decision we ever make. Friends can work for you or against you. Your behavior and happiness is directly connected to who we spend time with. King Solomon, in Proverbs 13:20 says, Walk with the wise and become wise… but it also says, A companion of fools suffers harm… A fool is a person that knows the difference between right and wrong, but doesn’t care. If these people don’t care about their deficiencies, why would they care about yours. 2 Cor 6:14 says Do not be yoked together with unbelievers and 1 Cor 15:33 says Bad company corrupts good character.
Our friendships can be complicated and over the course of our lives, we’ll have the full range of good and bad. Tony and my wife were probably right in ending that relationship. I’m still faithful, though I miss him in my life. Finding a faithful, best friend in the church is a guaranteed win IF you both remain faithful. Let’s help one another to hear “well done good and faithful servant…” That’s a TRUE best friend !