By Manuel Ferrer

To be intimate without being familiar remains an enigma. To be familiar is to put self on a family footing. To be part of a family is to suffer familiarity. Family members tend to despise each other. Close friends likewise do the same. They take for granted the companionship conferred and end up gratuitous.

Psalm 41:9 “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”

“Lifted up his heel against me” became euphemism for betrayal. Jesus applied this verse to one of His apostles (the one entrusted with the money bag), Judas. The four brothers of Jesus never ascended to apostleship. It did not help they did not believe their firstborn as the Messiah. They even tried to bring Jesus home to skirt the growing embarrassment among relatives that the carpenter from Nazareth was being hailed Son of God. To which Jesus aptly clarified that His real family are those who do the will of God. Judas was not flesh family but was chosen above others. He got associated with Jesus. He got close and personal to the private life of the Savior. He was one of the Twelve. He betrayed Jesus. He became familiar with his Master.

Matthew 26:48-50 “Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.”

The betrayer addressed Jesus as Master; Jesus called Judas friend. Judas belittled the honor of Apostle of the Lamb bestowed upon him. He despised what others esteemed. He took liberties in his enviable position without commitment to the Christ and the mission. To be familiar is to get used to but fail to delve into.

Good relationships are rare. Rarity is really costly. Commonplace is conspicuously cheap. Duplicates (surrogate friendships) are a dime a dozen. Actually, they are more cents for thousands in social media (fans and following alike). The pleasant nearest and dearest is extraordinary.

The discovery of one rare relation is breathtaking. Apart from knowing God intimately for eternity which is the definite definition of eternal life, life’s greatest adventure is discovering another person intimately. Every sentient individual is unique. Every new creation is God’s handiwork as masterpiece. Imagine being rewarded the prestigious privilege of probing into another completely distinct magnificent magnum opus. For some, it takes the form of marriage.

“I never imagined you can do that!” The admiring thrill in the voice of the wife says it all. The palpitation enclosed in the husband’s heart poised to explode is priceless. The wife believes there are more. She is certain there is more drama and interest in her seemingly ordinary husband than the latest million best sellers or box office shattering movies. The marriage never dulls into familiarity; it is always growing in close proximity but without closure or culmination to the closeness. Intimacy remains a goal so reachable but untouchable.

For others, it is simply divine link. The vertical tie with God results in the horizontal bond between brethren. Lest it becomes relegated as forgotten lore everyone aspiring to be with God should remember everyone else so desiring will also be existing forever with God. There is no room in eternity for contempt bred by familiarity. A brother or sister in Christ is family forever with God as Father of all, in all, above all and through all.

‘Seek and find’ is a saying of immense implication. Beyond an injunction to pray, it is a general principle to live by. Search for the best in every person and uncover exactly that. Scriptures define love this way. Hunt for the failing in any one and encounter good spoken as evil. Familiarity struts such wicked way. Finding flaws lessen the stature of supportive ally. (What fault did Judas find in Jesus?) Congeniality (now but a pretense) conceals the condescension due to the discovery of hearsay feet of clay. Derision replaces admiration.

Only days before death at the cross, Jesus at supper in Bethany allowed Mary sister of Martha and Lazarus, host of Jesus, to wash with expensive perfume (worth an annual worker’s wage) His feet. Judas scoffed at such extravagance of a Man purportedly pro-poor. He was further miffed by Jesus’ seemingly callous reply, “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” Judas voiced his displeasure, the disciples chimed along. A few days later the incident will be reprised by a sinful woman in the house of Simon the leper in the same town of Bethany. This time more will become indignant of such waste for sand stained feet; now, Judas initiated the betrayal.

Much was given to Judas (not just the coffers from which he pilfered); much was required of him. Along with the eleven, he was given power to heal the sick and cast out demons and proclaim the good news of the kingdom. His relation with Jesus has leveled several notches higher than the rest of the other followers including Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. He was not equal to the task and the trust. He knew the Master. He knew him wrong. Intimacy got clouded with familiarity.

Judas erroneously thought he had reached intimacy with Jesus when all he had was familiarity with Jesus’ ways. He was so used to Jesus’ routine he anticipated accurately where He would be that night. He failed to see the import of the words—I call you friend because I have revealed to you everything the Father has shown Me.

Accepting the impelling intent behind any act cements intimacy; mere acknowledgement of the act exposes familiarity. Crucifixion was not to the apostles’ liking (including Judas). Familiarity would even prod Peter to rebuke Jesus to dissuade Him from accepting this eventuality. He got called ‘Satan’ for such dishonorable deed. Familiarity trivialized Jesus’ life mission. Intimacy must be keyed up to what Jesus considered important.

My wife and I are into our 36th year of togetherness (5 years relationship before 31 years marriage). She has grown into an intimate partner of ‘taken from my rib’. Not the romantic notion of close to the heart but protector of the heart. She is my sanctuary. My wife from God is to encourage, to provide strength and affection and to affirm my worth in Christ. For her to adequately fulfill this position from God in the marriage relation I must open wide my heart. I must unburden all angst, all apprehensions, all alarms, and all attachments only to her (next to God). Only then can she carry out her God graced responsibility as my healing refuge, secret place, sacred sanctuary, safe haven, heavenly hideaway here on earth. She knows what is most important to me and endeavors to encourage me in times of despairing for not hitting the mark. It is intimacy without familiarity. It is acceptance without stumbling from error. For God Who brought us together did not err.

Asked by her grandchildren the secret of the longevity of her marriage, the stately grandmother gamely confessed, “The day we got married I told my husband there are ten things he must never do, otherwise I’ll leave him. When he asked for the list so he can comply, I refused to give it to him to keep him guessing in toeing the line.”

“Did grandpa ever cross the line in any of the ten prohibitions?” The grandchildren enquired.

Replied the grandmother, “Well, every time he made a mistake, I simply say—good for you, that’s not one of the ten!”

Eternal relationship must not be treated as temporal. ‘Till death’ vows must not be regarded on monthly basis. Familiarity smears an otherwise sacred commitment meant to last beyond the grave. It saps the vibrant life leaving any relation debilitated of energy to hang on. Jealousy, envy, possessiveness and dominance as multilayered hydra are no match to the deadly poison of familiarity. It deposes respect; then demands respect for superiority over the perceived weakness discovered in the associate. It is contemptible. It has no place in any relation.

Intimacy exalts uniqueness. Familiarity thrives on commonness. God treats each believer as one of a kind. He refuses to be used to our misses; He forgets them. His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.


Manuel Ferrer
About Manuel Ferrer
Bacoor, Cavite | Philippines

Manuel "Jing" Ferrer is currently the Senior Pastor at Lord Jesus Christ Word of God Christian Ministry, Spiritual Director at George Mueller Christian Academy, and is Chaplain/Justice at Barangay Molino 4, City of Bacoor, Cavite. More about Manuel here, and here.

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