Who is your best friend? What is it about them that makes you want to be with them? As children, there is very little discernment behind the process of attaining new friends. The process seems to go like this “Hey, you are a person. Do you want to be my best friend?” And there it is – a stranger has now become the greatest ally in that child’s world; that is until the next one shows up. Now I know this is rather entertaining in one part, because children do seem to go about this task rather simply, but it’s ironic that the older we get the more difficult it seems to make new friends. Why does this matter?
Do you know that the very first time we read about loneliness in the Bible is in the context of the Garden of Eden? It’s rather interesting to think about. In this utopian world where sin has not yet emerged, where there is no suffering, where there is no pain, where life is utter bliss, we find something remarkably not-good in the midst of God’s good and very-good. Moses penned these words in Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (ESV) Now there is a clear dynamic of the need for reproduction that is entirely impossible by Adam himself, and perhaps this passage has an eye towards that broad idea. But what if the more basic idea is that God has created humanity with the need for other people?
I think a case can be made from Scripture that we need friends. Now surprisingly, the word “friendship” is rather uncommon in Scripture. It appears not even a handful of times in the Bible. There are warnings against poor friendships such as, “Make no friendship with an angry man” (Prov. 22:24 KJV); “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4 ESV). But there is also a divine aspect to friendship. Here we consider Psalm 25:14, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” (ESV) We can even consider this classic imagery of the relationship between Moses and God, “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11 ESV)
What am I getting at? Firstly, God has made you for more than just you. I know this is truly paradigm-shifting stuff here. Secondly, God has made other people for more than just other people. It’s interesting that the older we get, the more we want to deny this reality. It may be simply that others have failed us. I know that others have failed me. But on the flip side, if we are honest, we need to admit as well that we have failed others.
The reality of God’s grace is not merely meant for those monumental sins like murder, theft, adultery, blasphemy, and the like. God’s mercy is necessary for us when we break our promises to our friends, or disregard people and treat them like a commodity to be thrown away, or are even abusive and violent towards those whom we used to call our friends. We need God’s mercy for our friendships, just like we do everything else.
Jesus knew something about bad friends. When He needed them the most they were nowhere to be found. He would have been right to scold them, or to air His every grievance against them. But He doesn’t do that does He? He confronts them but not like an angry teacher with a disgruntled student. Jesus confronts them to rebuild them and in so doing brushes away the broken foundations of their broken friendship and proceeds to establish an even firmer base. Jesus is the supreme model of friendship, as He is in everything.
How can you be more like Christ today with your friends? Does it look like speaking a hard word aiming towards a grace-filled reconciliation because your friend has abandoned you? Does it look like encouraging them because their hearts are heavy, and they are burned out on religion? Does it look like enjoying a day of fishing and a hearty meal on the grill? Does it look like simply being with them because no one else will?
Christian friendship is beautiful because its root is truly selfless, because its core is fixed on the cross of Christ. There we see friendship in its purest and most stunning form, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15 ESV)