By Rob McArthur
My original intention was to write this article about having a good attitude, adopting change and being community minded. All of that changed last week when I heard of the tragic passing of Colin Mackenzie, the owner of Ponoka’s No Frills, due to a recreational accident.
Colin Mackenzie was my friend.
I spend a lot of time at No Frills. Ask the staff. I am in the store an average of eight to 10 times a week. Usually, when we visit a business, we do so for the purpose of doing business. Occasionally, we develop a rapport with staff and/or owners that may progress beyond the typical sociable banter, but rarely does it go past that into the realm of friendship.
Back in the spring, I made a decision that I didn’t want Colin Mackenzie to be just another person I made chit chat with while at the grocery store. I decided that I wanted to be his friend, and so the next time I saw him while shopping, I approached him and asked if he and his lovely wife, Patsy, wanted to come for dinner. Colin kindly accepted. A few weeks later, the Mackenzies came for dinner. For the next several hours, Colin and Patsy graciously befriended my children, and the four of us kindled a friendship.
Proverbs 18:24 says “A man who has friends must show himself friendly, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” In other words, there is a cost to friendship. There is a cost to every relationship. Friendship requires that we “put ourselves out there”. Friendship compels us to open up the sanctuary of our home to others. Friendship necessitates trust and a degree of risk. What are those risks? The risk of rejection. The risk of emotional cost. The risk of losing someone. But for all of the risks and costs of friendship, the joy of knowing someone, the joy of having a friend is worth the risk.
Matthew 28:16-20 records the moment when Jesus’ disciples meet him in Galilee shortly after his resurrection. Jesus has defeated the grave victoriously. He is full of resurrection life. Then He commissions his followers to “Go and make disciples of the nations.” Christ’s followers are invited to get swept up into the unfolding drama of God’s redemption and restoration of our lives and the world.
The trouble is, the context for the Great Commission is usually overlooked. It starts with verse 16, which says, “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee”. Formerly the twelve. A tight knit group of Jesus closest associates, now suffering the loss of one of their friends. A lot of people unjustly write off Judas because he betrayed Jesus. However, his life and his tragic death, didn’t happen in an isolated bubble. It happened within the context of friendship.
How could the all-knowing God of the universe ever want friendship with a man knowing it would end in loss? Because Jesus considered the risks of making a friend to be worth it. He knew that we don’t need a gospel that guarantees us a happy life without loss. We need the gospel which meets me in the tragedy that can be life.
My heart breaks for Patsy, her sons, and the staff at No Frills. For the second time in less than a year, Ponoka has lost a great business leader and significant contributor to our community. We are all poorer for the loss. But for the pain of losing friends, I will never stop making friends! I will never stop putting myself out there. The joy of having known someone far outweighs my feeling of loss. I am thankful for the opportunity to have made a friend in Colin.