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January 2016

ARE YOU A TRUE FRIEND?

We all remember the terrible tsunami in the Indian Ocean that struck on December 26, 2004.  It even reached the coast of Kenya in Africa. 
 
Did you hear the story of the baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves but lost his parents?  Some wildlife rangers rescued the baby hippo and took him to an Animal Facility in the port city of Mombassa.  It was there that he made friends with a 100-year-old male tortoise.
 
Do you know the difference between turtles and tortoises?  Turtles tend to have webbed feet and live near rivers and lakes, and of course, there are the big sea turtles.  The tortoise has stumpy back feet and is a land-dweller.  The turtle lives from 70 to 80 years, while the tortoise can live from 100 to 150 years.  In our story, the tortoise adopted the baby hippo and the baby followed him everywhere.
 
What makes a good friend?  Do we choose our friends based on their good looks or monetary wealth?  Some people only want to be seen with the so-called “beautiful people.”  There is a text in James 3 that tells us that we should not be partial.  Now, the baby hippo did not choose the tortoise for his good looks or visa versa.  Yes, I know, they are cute, but neither would win a beauty contest.  And so it should be with us. We should not pick people as our friends based on good looks, money or their position in life.
 
The Bible clearly teaches that, while we do have our own special circle of friends, we should treat others that we meet, the rich, the poor, the beautiful and the not-so-beautiful, with the same amount of kindness and respect. We are told in Acts 10:34 that God is no respecter of persons. In other words, God does not show partiality.  He loves and treats everyone the same, which makes me wonder how religious people can hate those who are different from them!
 
The baby hippo and the tortoise certainly did not care about their differences!  Amazingly, there was complete acceptance by the tortoise, even though the baby hippo was so different from his species.  In addition, being 100 years old, the dear old tortoise had lived long enough to gather many friends, but he was still open to having one more. The tortoise was especially willing to make friends with the baby hippo, who was in great need of a friend.
 
We can learn a lot from the old tortoise, he did not befriend the baby hippo to use him, which often happens in the human world.  The tortoise was no “fair weathered friend” either, a friend who would roll out the red carpet one week and pull it out from under the baby hippo the next.  Emmerson wrote, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”  The old tortoise seemed to know that.
 
As humans, we all need friends, and I would like to suggest that the best friend we can have is Jesus!  The Bible tells us that we become God’s friend by first accepting His forgiveness for our sins, and then John 15:14 states: “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you!”  What a privilege to be called God’s friend!
 
The 100-year-old tortoise and the baby hippo
 

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