One aspect of friendship we often overlook in our hustle-bustle daily lives is the mentoring relationship. Nearly every aspect of society used a master–apprentice system before the printing press encouraged book learning to prosper.
Leonardo da Vinci became an extraordinary artist by learning from a master of the craft. Jesus Christ learned how to craft items from wood (ironic that the maker of wood would learn to make things out of wood from a mere mortal) at the knee of his father, Joseph. Trades were perpetuated in this manner.
Learning how to be a good friend is no different. Helping someone excel in their Christian walk requires mentorship. After all “iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17).
Sometimes a mentor is just that: a guide and example. Other times, mentors befriend those whom they mentor. I believe this is the pattern that would best serve the kingdom of God.
Two Biblical examples stand out in my mind when I think about mentors who were also friends. An older woman experiencing an unexpected pregnancy reaches out to a young mother in a similar situation. A man stands up for a known murderer because he sees fruit of repentance in that man’s life.
Mary and Elisabeth
The exchange between Mary and Elisabeth happens in Luke chapter one.
Mary receives an angelic messenger whose message forever alters her life. Not for the good, either. She will be called all sorts of foul names to her face and behind her back. She has no reason to expect her fiancé to uphold their marriage contract. Who will believe her fantastical tale?
“I’m a virgin.”
“Yeah. We can see that by your ballooning abdomen.”
“God is the father of my child.”
“Delusions of grandeur.”
“Joseph, I had this strange encounter with an angel. He said I’m going to bear Immanuel. I promise I’m still a virgin.”
You can imagine how well that conversation ended. Read Matthew 1:18-25 for the whole story. Joseph reacted like any man would. An angel set him straight.
But Elisabeth rejoiced when Mary came to visit her and share her amazing news. Elisabeth praised her for being a godly woman. After all, God would never choose some faithless girl to carry His only Son.
Mary spent her first trimester in the company of this uplifting mentor. Their communion fortified her for the things to come.
Did she never cry or feel despair when the spiteful words slapped her in the face? No. She had a soundtrack she could replay, though. “Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:42) and “blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).
An older woman, who experienced a similar trial of faith, reached out to take a younger woman under her wing. In mentoring, she strengthened the determination and faith of the younger so she could face her hard road.
Saul and Barnabas
Saul murdered Christians. He hunted them down, dragged them kicking and screaming from their homes and threw them in prison. Avoiding him made perfect sense to the believers in Jerusalem.
Saul met Jesus. He accepted baptism and began to teach about Jesus in the synagogues of Damascus. He had fruits proving his conversion was complete (Matt. 3:8).
The disciples in Jerusalem didn’t care about any of that. They assumed it was a trick to infiltrate the church so he could bring about the demise of everyone in a single stroke. Would we react any differently?
Barnabas – whose very name means “son of consolation” or encourager – listened to Saul’s story. He took Saul to the leaders of the church and explained all about Saul “seeing the light” on the road to Damascus, his baptism and his dynamic preaching.
As a result, Saul was allowed to become part of the fellowship of believers. What a different world we would know if this great evangelist hadn’t found a friend in Barnabas!
It doesn’t end there, either. Saul heads to Tarsus, maybe preaching or maybe just hanging out at home. The Bible doesn’t say. It’s clear though that Barnabas didn’t give up on Saul.
Things start catching fire in Judea and the church sends Barnabas to Antioch. People wanted to learn about Jesus. Barnabas could have settled in there and had a grand old time. After all, “much people was added unto the Lord” (Acts 11:24) under Barnabas’ preaching.
“Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch” (Acts 11:25-26).
Barnabas saw worth in this former Pharisee. He knew Saul’s knowledge of the Bible made him an ideal candidate for teaching these hungry converts.
He also knew that God had told Saul to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15) and Antioch was the perfect place to do it. As a mentor, Barnabas didn’t allow Saul to be discouraged by naysayers or settle for something less than God’s best.
From these examples, we infer the following truths:
- Mentoring friendships encourage young believers to face hard times
- Mentoring friendships involve work and sacrifice
- Mentors need to follow the leadership of God and have the best interest of their young friend at the forefront of all actions
- Mentoring friendships perpetuate the Gospel
- Mentoring is God’s plan for New Testament believers
Have you been mentored? Is there someone struggling with things the Lord helped you overcome?
Young ladies need to seek the counsel and friendship of godly women. Older women are duty bound to teach the younger ones how to live for the Lord (Titus 2:3-5).
One thing is certain: you are the older women to someone and the younger women to others. Are you involved in a mentoring friendship? If not, please pray that God will direct you to one (or more).
Up next week: Family as Friends