How Important is Friendship in the Christian Life?
The human need for friendship is well-established within Christianity and without. The need to connect with another human being on the level of shared interests and mutual respect and care is one we have all probably felt.
At the age of ten, after a long day of moving, I stood in my new room, which was still disheveled and cluttered with my belongings. It was then it hit me:
I could no longer walk to my friends’ houses down the block.
In fact, I could barely see the neighbors’ houses through the trees and land that stood between the houses in this new place.
I had been so caught up in the excitement of the move that I hadn’t realized how hard it was going to be to leave my friends behind, over four hours away. And although I was only ten, I felt an acute ache in my heart many times that year when I just wanted to experience the connection I had established with my old friends.
God created us with the need to share our lives with others. Leilani Mueller, in an article for Christianity Today’s Hermeneutics titled “True Friends Will Change You,” says friendship is used by God “not just to change us, but to make us like him.”
When we discuss shared interests with a friend, it is an opportunity to grow, to learn from the other person. And even when we disagree, it can be an opportunity to grow, to stretch our normal thought patterns in the context of a relationship based on respect, care, and love.
The Bible says “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Especially in a Christian context, God gives us the gift of friendship not only because it brings us joy, but because it edifies us, it builds us up and helps us grow.
“As Christians we are called to love our neighbors,” Mueller says. “In friendship, the belief ‘I should love my neighbor’ becomes more than just a concept. It’s sitting with a friend when she is mourning a breakup, or celebrating a new job.”
This sharing of life can easily be applied within the church as well. Mueller says that the small group model that many churches practice is a great way to cultivate friendships. Even if we may feel at first that the people in our small group are not people we would normally seek out as friends, we should remember that as Christians, we all share the most important bond--belonging to Christ and being a part of his family.
Cliff Young, writing for Crosswalk.com provides a few key aspects of friendship that we can cultivate as we seek to build one another up and to share our lives.
Young bases his key components of friendship on the story of the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible. A true and deep friendship will have “common values and experience,” “trust and encouragement,” and “commitment and loyalty,” Young says in his article “The Making of a Friendship.”
It can be difficult to seek out and cultivate friendships, especially in our adult lives. It takes time and commitment, but it is worth it because friendship is one of the tools God uses to sanctify us and to allow us to experience more of Him as we share more with each other.
Photo courtesy: Kjugar Photography
Publication date: November 11, 2015
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com