Take a moment to look at your personal life. Are you experiencing a season of connection and community? Or do you find yourself alone, maybe even among others, in a season of emotional isolation? Or perhaps, like many of us, you find yourself in an in-between place: one where life seems only to afford you the time to stay half-grounded in any meaningful relationships. You have them available to you, but you don’t seem to have the time, space, or emotional energy to invest fully.
God designed us for community—yes, he designed you for community—and he designed you to thrive with other believers by your side. But part of that fact implies that you’ll never be able to thrive without it.
“Christian friendships exist for this: to say things that keep each other believing.”
This is the one distinguishing mark of Christian friendship—the one thing every Christian friendship desperately needs.
In a social media driven culture, this need resonates now more than ever. Where everything is influenced by appearance, fueled by convenience, and dependant on “likes,” it’s hard to find authenticity. Even in this “age of connection,” we seem to be so overstimulated by all the faux connection that we’re often drained of the time, space, and mental energy God intends for us to pour into others—so many of whom are right around us.
But this attention to meaningful connection isn’t just coming from the Christian scene. Even Mark Zuckerberg, according to this article by Jesse Carey on Relevant Magazine, wants Facebook to become more like a church. After meeting with a group of pastors earlier this year, Zuckerberg stated:
“[The meeting] helped me understand just how important community is, and how we’re all just looking for something we can trust. We may come from different backgrounds, but we all want to find purpose and authenticity in something bigger than ourselves.”
If the world is noticing the importance of community (and if the CEO of Facebook is pointing it out) believers should be leading the way in modeling it. So, as the world looks on, there is a challenge—and a promise—every believer should embrace:
If we invest in community, sow time and energy into other believers, and focus our attention on speaking truth and love into others…our lives will never be the same.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” -Hebrews 10:24-25
True Friendship – Examples of Real Friendship
True friendship stories are found throughout the Bible. In Genesis 18:17-33, we read about God sharing His intentions with Abraham. Abraham responds by telling God his thoughts and feelings about the situation. God and Abraham are able to do this because they trust and respect each other.
First Samuel 20 focuses on the friendship of David and Jonathan. These two men truly cared for each other and had great trust and confidence in one another. David was running for his life from Jonathan’s father, Saul. Jonathan recognized that David was innocent. Because of the true friendship they shared, David survived Saul’s assassination attempts and went on to become one of Israel’s greatest kings.
Real and true friendship involves freedom of choice, accountability, truth, and forgiveness. Peter and Jesus give us this example: Peter, afraid for his life after Jesus is led away from the Garden of Gethsemane, denies knowing Jesus (John 18). As He is led away by His accusers, Jesus casts a look toward Peter that says, “I knew you would deny Me, and I forgive you” (John 21).
Real friendship looks at the heart, not just the “packaging.” Genuine friendship loves for love’s sake, not just for what it can get in return. True friendship is both challenging and exciting. It risks, it overlooks faults, and it loves unconditionally, but it also involves being truthful, even though it may hurt. Genuine friendship, also called “agape” love, comes from the Lord. The Lord Jesus calls us His friends and He laid down His life for us (John 15).
Relationships in real life involve different levels of friendships, and that’s okay. But humans are designed by God for lasting relationships. Often our isolationist society offers only vague, empty relationships. God wants us to have friends here on earth. Most of all, He wants us to be friends with Him!
God’s Word tells us that a friend sticks closer than a brother, and that in order for one to be a friend, one must show themselves friendly (Proverbs 18:24). The question is: what type of friend do you desire to be?
Proverbs 18:19 in the New Living Translation says: “It’s harder to make amends with an offended friend than to capture a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars.” When we’ve offended a true friend – whether by breaking a trust or by speaking the truth with love – we risk losing that friendship. We must be careful not to break the trust. But when not speaking the truth will cause greater hurt in our friend’s life, we must be willing to sacrifice our needs for those of our friend. That is true friendship.
If we sometimes offend a friend without meaning to, God’s Word offers a solution. It’s called forgiveness. There is no greater example than the love of God for us. It is so great that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in order that our friendship with God might be restored. He did that in spite of the fact that we have offended Him deeply. We have disobeyed His commands, turned our backs on Him, and followed our own path. So the question remains: What type of friend do you want to be? True Christian friendship forgives.
Do you need a friend? God wants to be your true friend. Are you longing for companionship? God is always with you (Hebrews 13:5). Who do you know who needs a true friend today? God wants you to befriend others. He calls us to be His hands and feet in a world starving for true friendship.