If I’m honest I’m really a bit of a loner. It may have something to do with my more introvert make-up, perhaps I find it fundamentally difficult to trust people and I certainly struggle to invest the necessary time in making and building relationships.
The few very good friends I do have all share one overriding quality…they are all not afraid to say hard things to me in a kind way.
Sometimes hard things just have to be said!
 As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table.  His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the ceremonial washing required by Jewish custom.  Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are still filthy—full of greed and wickedness!  Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside?  So give to the needy what you greedily possess, and you will be clean all over.
 “But how terrible it will be for you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you completely forget about justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things.
 “How terrible it will be for you Pharisees! For how you love the seats of honour in the synagogues and the respectful greetings from everyone as you walk through the markets!  Yes, how terrible it will be for you. For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on.”
Luke 11:37-44 (NLT)
Believe it or not, Jesus and the Pharisees had a lot in common. They worshipped together in the synagogue and had a similar deep love for their faith. Unfortunately, it seems, that the Pharisees all too often focused on external observance whilst ignoring inner transformation…they may have looked good but they acted a lot less well. Maybe, just maybe they were so used to being that way that they had become ‘blind’ to the damage they were doing to themselves, their faith and their God.
So Jesus was passionate in speaking out about these things, because he so often saw how far people had strayed from the way God intended us to live. Speaking about and challenging those attitudes didn’t always make him popular.
We all love to have our egos stroked, to be told how wonderful and successful we are. The temptation is there to gather around us a group of sycophantic ‘friends’ who tell us what we want to hear and more.
Friends who tell us hard truths in a caring way are taking a huge risk. They may end up being on the wrong end of a whole lot of defensive venom as they try to enact tough love on us. I confess that I don’t always cope well, at first, but these friends have gone the distance and haven’t given up on me…that gives them the right to try to reach me when they see me getting off track.
And I know that the accountability to which they hold me is completely reciprocal.
As followers of Jesus perhaps we should take more time to look at the things that made him angry, to recognize those things in ourselves and in the world at large. We also need to see that some kinds of confrontation simply close the door to further opportunity, and seek to challenge with kindness if it’s at all possible.
Thank God for friends who care enough to confront us, and ask Jesus to show us when when to challenge and to help us to do it with love.