The world has some funny ideas about friendships:
- Never let your friends feel lonely; disturb them all the time.
- True friends never get tired of hearing your “drama.”
- A friend is the one who fetches your “I think I’m going to be sick” bucket. A GREAT friend will hold it for you.
- “It’s one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
- We are all mature … until a friend brings out some bubble wrap!
- We’ll be friends until we are old and senile, and then we’ll be NEW friends.
- “There is nothing better than a friend – unless it is a friend with chocolate.” (Linda Grayson)
The truth is, God made us for relationships. And friends are a special gift.
I’ve been thinking about friendships for a long time now. I’ve seen “friends come and friends go” (Proverbs 18:24a, The Msg), and I don’t like that so much. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to make lasting friends in my unique circumstances.
To be honest, I was waiting for people at church to want to be good friends with me, to reach out with the connection rather me than seeking them out. I don’t think I’m alone.
Many people in the church struggle with making good, strong friendships. They find it challenging, frustrating, even discouraging. Like me, maybe they don’t want to admit they have that struggle, because they think, “Am I so unlovable?” or “What’s wrong with me?” Maybe it’s because we’re basically selfish. (OK, TOTALLY selfish.)
Others think “making friends” should be simple or easy, just because we’re Christians. Oh, we have so much to learn about creating strong, biblical friendships.
And what is a biblical friendship?
In his book * The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship, Jonathan Holmes, the Pastor of Counseling at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, says:
“Biblical friendship exists when two or more people, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ, pursue Him and His kingdom with intentionality and vulnerability.”
It goes beyond typical “Christian fellowship” to something deeper and more personal. Biblical friendship adds “depth, refinement, and detail through active investment in one another’s lives,” Holmes says.
But it’s even more than that!
“Rather than serving as an end in itself, biblical friendship serves primarily to bring glory to Christ, who brought us into friendship with the Father.”
Wow. That’s going to be a revelation for some Christians who think friendships only exist for our personal enjoyment and comfort!
Our friendships are not intended by God to be just for us. They are primarily for Him! To bring Him glory.
Holmes explains some mistaken ideas for biblical friendship–basically any kind of relationship we pursue to gain personally. These mistaken ideas, he says, are no different from the world’s concept of friendship.
A “personal gain” relationship isn’t necessarily wrong, on one level; but the point is, God made us for so much more!
Holmes then describes the “four marks” of biblical friendship (constancy, candor, carefulness and counsel).
But I’ve got to tell you, it was his basic premise that grabbed my heart.
The scriptures tell us we are to do ALL things to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31b). I’m not sure why I never included “making friends” in that mandate.
Once we get that concept firmly in place in our thinking, the typical scriptures about making friends (or building any close relationship) make even more sense.
- Biblical friends are careful in choosing relationships. (Proverbs 12:26)
- Biblical friends love each other all the time, and especially when times get tough. (Proverbs 17:17; Romans 12:10)
- Biblical friends “sharpen” each other and encourage accountability. (Proverbs 27:17; 11:14; 19:20)
- Biblical friends will be kind, tender and forgiving toward each other. (Ephesians 4:32: Colossians 3:12-14)
But the motivation of biblical friends will be something more. We will do these things in order to bring honor to the One we love most of all.
One thing is for sure, Jesus is the sinner’s closest, dearest friend. He loves us and sacrificed His life for us, calls us into friendship with Himself, and teaches us how to be His friend (John 15:12-15).
“The One in whom the fullness of God dwells calls you and me friends,” Holmes writes. … Jesus, through His death on the cross, be-friends us so we can now go and be friends with others.”
In Him, we are free to be create powerful friendships.
Do you struggle making friends? Does knowing God wants us to build friendships that will glorify Him motivate you to seek out a different kind of relationship?
* Jonathan Holmes, The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship, Cruciform Press, 2014.
Graphic: Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.