As Skye’s story stayed with me more, I’ve been reflecting on friendship and have wondered the significance of it. Is this something I take for granted? Skye was evidently missing friendship and it had a real effect on her life. Has God given us friendships for a purpose? What purpose? Is it a blessing? Or just a part of everyday life?
The more this has been on my heart and mind, the more I’ve come to realise that we are wired for relationships - of course we are! The gospel is clear on this - we are designed to be in a relationship with the God of the universe and sin severed this relationship right at the beginning of Genesis. The rest of the book paints the picture of God bringing back his people into relationship with himself.
So, as Jesus followers, how does this flow into our friendships?
One of my favourite things to do when thinking about being a Jesus follower, is to, well, look at Jesus! How did he relate to people when he was here on earth?
The gospels include accounts of Jesus befriending sinners - so much so that he was accused of being one because he associated with them.
We also see that he was friends with saints. In John, he calls his disciples his friends. He also says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:12-14.
Just as Jesus did with saints and sinners, so should we. We should sacrifice, we should befriend, we should share, we should comfort, we should encourage, connect and love.
Not only do we have a friend in Jesus (try reading that without the old hymn getting stuck in your head) but he has given us friendships here and now to foster and steward well.
Usually when it comes to reading the bible, I'd encourage you to read with the desire to understand what the writer of the book is trying to say - what's their intent. Usually this is best done through reading a book or chapter or chunk in its entirety and asking questions around what is God trying to tell us about himself, or what was happening for those people at that time, what lessons was he trying to teach them. And then see if there's any similar lessons we could learn. All this to say -- I word searched on my bible app. There were some pretty beautiful thoughts on friendship! I tried to sum them up, but really, they speak so beautifully for themselves.
"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now."
"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!"
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 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.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
‘'Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.'
"Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.'
"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord."
Friendship is a beautiful gift from God. We are wired as relational beings.
And as we look at Jesus, we need to be considering the friends we have in our life as well. We need to be in relationship with people who need the gospel, and we need to be in relationship with people who are going to encourage and build us up sharing in the unity and love we have in Jesus.
There will be times in our life where our friendships ebb and flow. Where we will feel lonely. Where we will feel loved. Can I encourage you - set out to be a friend, not find a friend. Start by imitating Jesus, lay down your life for people.
That wise, old hymn really does sum up friendship perfectly.
“What a friend we have in Jesus all our sins and grieves to share
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer
Oh what peace we often forfeit oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer
Have we trials and temptations is there trouble anywhere
We should never be discouraged take it to the Lord in prayer
(Can we find up friend so faithful who will all our sorrow share)
In his arms he'll take and shield it you will find us all us there
Carry everything to God in prayer”
Charles Crozat Converse and William Bolcom