The essentials of Christian friendship
Some of you might remember that TV show, ‘Friends’. It’s about six people in their 20s living in New York. It had that catchy theme tune, ‘I’ll be there for you’. David Schwimmer, one of the actors in the show said, ‘It’s a fantasy for a lot of people – having a group of friends who become like a family’. For many people, that’s true. According to one survey, 20% of adults admit to feeling lonely all the time and the same percentage say that they have no friend with whom they can discuss a personal problem.
This Sunday, we’re going to think more about friendship, as we see Job’s relationship with his three friends, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad. Job was in a situation when he desperately needed good friends. Unfortunately, they didn’t turn out to be the friends he needed.
Christian friendships need commitment.
Having a friend who is a Christian is a great blessing, but having a Christian friendship is even better. There’s a difference. A Christian friend is simply a friend who is also a believer. However, a Christian friendship is actually a relationship where you put into practice what believers are supposed to do. These friendships regularly demonstrate forgiveness and accountability, patience and honesty, love and encouragement, prayer and sacrifice.
When you look at a list like this you realize that three things are needed.
First, Christian friendships need commitment. It’s easy to have friendships when it’s just laughs or bonding over a common interest (like sport, shopping, or food). To have something deeper requires perseverance and an investment of time. It means pushing beyond convenience to being present when it costs you. In great friendships, you say to yourself, ‘The needs of the relationship come before my own individual needs’.
Second, they need closeness. Light conversations are fine, but you also need conversations that get beyond the superficial. To rejoice and weep with one another, you need to know what’s going on with each other (Rom. 12:15). To pray for one another, there needs to be disclosure of struggles (Gal. 6:1-2).
Third, they need to be candid. The Apostle Paul says mature Christians will speak the truth in love to one another (Eph. 4:15). Our preference is normally to put up a ‘shop-front’, an appearance that everything’s going fine. Men do this more than ladies – we don’t want to appear weak or needy. However, real depth in relationships and growth in Christian maturity comes when we’re intentional about having honest conversations: we ask thoughtful questions and we share personal truths.
Do you have these types of friendships? Prayerfully consider how you can invest in them.
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