Soon the house where he [Jesus] was staying was so packed with visitors that there wasn't room for one more person, not even outside the door. And he preached the word to them. Four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn't get to Jesus through the crowd, so they dug through the clay roof above his head. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing THEIR faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "My son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:2-5 TNIV emp. by the author)

This is just an awesome story of friendship. Of course the story ends with Jesus saying, "Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed!" (Mark 2:11) Jesus could see everything perfectly, and he knew these men weren't just doing their paralyzed friend a favor. They weren't just carrying him there because they owed him something. They all came with the faith that Jesus would heal him ... and Jesus knew it!

I love the entire dynamics of this story. The paralyzed man depended on his friends for help. They were the kind of friends that would go the extra mile. They made a hole in the roof of the room where Jesus was! That is friendship!

We're all surrounded by people who need the healing touch of Jesus. All of us need His touch in desperate ways from time to time. How awesome to have the kind of relationships where people will carry you to Jesus when you can't get there on your own ... but even if that is not enough, they will go to the added extreme to see to it that you don't leave until your needs are met.

These kinds of relationships don't just happen. They are not formed by two people chatting together once every 6 weeks with a "How are you?" and a "Just fine!" kind of conversation. They are formed when we really get to know one another, and deeply care about each other. They don't grow if we hide our problems or pretend we don't have weaknesses. They aren't nurtured if we're too busy with so much trivia that we can't even see the pain in each other's eyes.

We can't literally carry every single person we know to Jesus, then cut holes in the roof to see to it they meet Him face to face. None of us has that kind of time or energy. But we must spiritually carry our friends to Him at all times ... and that happens when we truly are friends.

I challenge us all to be serious about building relationships, especially within our church homes. Take opportunities to join small groups. Become a part of the prayer ministry. Take advantage of e-mail — I love knowing I can share with others, even when they're sound asleep! And coffee! What a treat ... to meet someone for a cup of coffee, and then be able to pour your heart out to them, or listen as they pour out their own.

Bring them to Jesus!
I really don't think it's realistic that we all have close friendships with everyone in our church family, but I do think it's realistic that within our church family everyone will have someone they're close to. Especially if we ask and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into those relationships and help us bring them to Jesus to receive His love, grace, power, healing, and forgiveness.

Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. (Hebrews 10:24)