A week ago tonight my best friend, Josh Allen, was killed in a car wreck. The other young man was killed as well. Two men, in what many would call the “prime” of their lives, dead. I do not know the other guy or anything about him. I do not harbor resentment or anger towards him. We all make mistakes. Some more consequential than others. So here is what I do know.
Josh was my friend because he took time to invest in me. He listened to me. He rebuked me when needed and challenged me in numerous ways. He did not care how far out my theology questions went, he still loved me for who I was and am. He saw potential in me. He trusted me and I trusted him with my deepest doubts, fears, and short-comings. Josh was a Christian, a believer and follower of Jesus, the carpenter turned rabbi from the town of Nazareth. Josh was not the kind of man who says one thing but does another. He believed in heaven and hell and the redemption of mankind through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It made him who he was.
His death does not alleviate my questions surrounding my own Christian faith. But it does spur me on to continue loving people with the depth that my friend did. What I learned in his passing is that he had a lot of people who considered him their best friend. But I also know that none of us were his best friend. Honestly, his wife was his best friend. And that is how it should be. And for those of us who claimed him as our best friends, we need to take the lessons we learned from Josh about caring and spending time with other people as our own way to live life.
The two greatest commandments in the Christian faith according to Jesus in Matthew’s account of the gospel is to love God with all that we are, and the second is like it, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Let me go a little deeper for you on this thanks to a friend of mine in Colorado. These are not commandments that you can choose to obey or not. The Greek is written in such a way to render these two statements as declarative statements. You WILL love YOUR God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You WILL love others as YOU love yourself. Whatever your God is will be evident to the world around you. If your God is the pursuit of money, then people will be able to tell that. If your God is recognition of your achievements then people will be able to tell. Josh’s God was Jesus Christ. It was evident in what he said, how he talked, the way he treated strangers and friends, and how he gave of himself so that others would be pointed towards his God.
Now the second commandment works the same way. You will love people in direct proportion to how you love yourself. If you do not love yourself (in a healthy way, a kind of appreciative way of the value you bring to the world around you) then you will show this to the people in your life in how you treat and act towards them. Honestly, I do not know how Josh invested in so many people. He was methodical in his use of the time given to him each day and somehow he managed to love his wife and son in the middle of it all. I know that Josh had a healthy view of himself because his value or self-worth came from his belief in Jesus as his Lord, Savior, and God. He found value in himself because of what he believed about the Bible as a whole, and how he applied its teachings and theology to his own life.
What impact or legacy did he leave behind? Was there something else he could have done with his life that would have had as positive of an impact? These two questions stick out in my mind. His legacy is Jesus Christ: today, yesterday, and forever. Josh’s impact is going to continue for generations. I cannot imagine someone telling me that Josh’s life was pointless because he was seeking to spread ancient customs and traditions instead of truly bettering humanity through rationalistic and scientific approaches. Josh brought hope to those hurting, help to those in need, a listening ear and wisdom beyond his years to those searching for truth, and more. I do believe Jesus brings division, but so does anyone who believes anything at all. Beliefs divide us. But we need to be more like Josh. Willing to listen and to engage in dialogue so that we can meet the needs of humanity.
And for Josh those needs included restoration with our Creator through not just believing in what Jesus did on the cross, but in following the teachings of Jesus. So I encourage you with this post to be true to what you say you believe, and be willing to engage and invest in others who believe differently than you. It is what Josh would have wanted because it is what Jesus asked Josh, and anyone who believes in Him, to do.
May the God of Forever provide comfort, mercy, and joy to Shelley and Josiah in the years to come.
Missing my friend,