I seriously believe that if people, especially men, understood biblical friendship, you would see a marked difference in our churches. I believe the benefits of men understanding and practicing biblical friendship would manifest itself in the church in several ways, including:
· Koinonia (κοινωνία) Fellowship. Of course koinonia fellowship can be described as, “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.” The first occurrence of koinonia is Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” In other words, koinonia fellowship is Christ centered fellowship. This is priceless to the church!
· Stability: Along with the koinonia fellowship produced by biblical friendship, comes stability in the church. When Jesus is the heart of a local body of believers, stability is a natural outflow. In other words, there’s no “backbiting”, gossip, etc., rather love, concern, and the like…
· Ministry: When Christ is the center of our friendships, ministry will be the norm.
So, to say the least, biblical friendship has tremendous benefits, not only to the church but to us as individuals…for these same benefits apply to us individually!
We Need Friendship
“Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.”
― William Shakespeare
Today friendship has fallen on hard times. Few men have good friends, much less deep friendships. Individualism, autonomy, privatization, and isolation are culturally cachet, but deep, devoted, vulnerable friendship is not. This is a great tragedy for self, family, and the Church, because it is in relationships that we develop into what God wants us to be… Friendships…are there to be made if we value them as we ought – and if we practice some simple disciplines of friendship.
Not only these benefits, but more…especially as men. Men treat friendship differently than women. If we ever speak about the new shoes we got it’s normally something like,
“Dude…got new boots…steel toes…yeah.” “Cool…”
But fact is we need friendship as much as women…it simply manifests itself differently. Most of us just want someone to be friend enough to understand what’s going on in our life. We don’t necessarily need someone to share long conversations, just to know that someone genuinely understands our plight and shows concern. If you deny this, you’re just dumb…
But that’s a difficult thing to find in our narcissistic society. Just knowing that someone understands our plight, even if they do nothing about but understand, will often give us the energy to continue on…
It was C. S. Lewis who said,
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
Again, there are huge benefits to true friendship… –But the greatest benefit of biblical friendship is that it glorifies God! You remember, I’m sure, the answer to the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism which is,
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.
This is what we are to be about! This is the reason we exist and the reason we are given life…to glorify God and enjoy Him forever! It’s what I call the spiritual circle of life…we glorify God, He is exalted, we rest in Him, He is glorified, etc…what a glorious picture! This is true in true friendship as well. Hear this statement, Biblical friendship is a God created thing, created and given to bring glory to God. God is glorified in the things He has created, things such as marriage, the church, even friendship. Marriage is indeed a picture of the godhead and is intended to point people to the godhead, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Think of it this way, in marriage you have two individual persons, both equal to each other, yet one willingly submits to the other for the glory of God.
The church likewise… The people that make up the church are equal with those who are called to shepherd the church, its leaders, but they willingly submit to their servant leadership.
These two God created institutions were not designed and created by accident…no, not at all! They were designed and created to point people to God! By the way, that’s another reason both should be practiced properly/biblically. That’s why we go to Scripture to understand marriage and church…so we can do them properly and point people to God through Jesus! I believe everything was created to point to a holy, awesome God!
The same holds true for biblical friendship! It has a unique design and creation in order for people to see Jesus in the midst of it! So it’s clear that we should want to understand and practice biblical friendship, because it glories God and benefits us. So how do we do that? By examining passages regarding Christ-centered friendship…
What is Biblical Friendship?
So, we have to ask ourselves…What is friendship? What does the Bible says about friendship? I believe the best definition is found in the Bible…and it’s found in Proverbs 18:24…you know it well…
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18:24 ESV)
–What do we have in this verse?
1. Masses of acquaintances don’t equate to friends…
-We have so many ideas of what makes a “friend”. But this is for sure…lots of people around you do not friends make. Facebook cracks me up at times; people brag when they have 1000 “friends”; chances are they are only genuine friends with a handful, if even that! I really think we need to clarify by calling them “Facebook friends”… Truth is, you may have many people surrounding you and have no friends at all…
Here’s the second truth in this verse…
2. One who sticks closer than a brother…
-Herein lies the biblical definition for true friendship… I think you can define it just as the verse does,
“…a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”
This is indeed the Old Testament (OT), but unlike what many believe, the OT is not a Jesus-less volume. The OT is but a trajectory toward Jesus and the cross, and Jesus is all over this proverb!! It was Spurgeon who, when speaking of preaching said,
I take my text and make a bee-line to the cross…
That included the OT. The same thought is true in this OT proverb; Jesus is all over it! So we can also say that Jesus is the subject of this verse…and of friendship! Here’s my declaration, there is no true friendship without Jesus! Now if we had more time I could share with you what a Jesus-less friendship looks like. But I will say that God’s grace rains on the just and the unjust and even those outside of Christ can experience and even enjoy bits of true friendship, but not nearly the full benefits of a truly Christ-centered friendship.
Friendship is the grace of God, centered in Jesus Christ. Many will tell you that family is as close as anyone could get, but to be close to someone in Christ is an entirely different realm; it transcends earthly or natural family…it is indeed supernatural!
Many think of John 15 when friendship is discussed. There are some key truths in this passage about friendship:
1. Biblical Friendship for the Believer is Imperative.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
If indeed friendship is a God created thing, created and given in order to bring glory to God, then it can be considered Christian fruit. If we are dwelling in Christ, if you are alive in Christ, if you are a Christian, then you will produce fruit. If you don’t produce fruit, as the passage says, there are severe consequences! So friendship is a God created thing that is created and given to bring glory to God…therefore we should produce friendship…YOU ARE NOT AN ISLAND!
2. Biblical Friendship for the Believer can only be done through Christ!
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)
Trying to be a true or biblical friend on your own strength is impossible!! It simply cannot be done the way God intended it to be done. It’s just like anything else a Christian strives to do, whether it’s pray, minister, give, encourage, read and understand the Bible, so forth and so on… If Christ is not the power behind it, it will fail!! Some of us have made a mess of our friendships because we’ve struggled under our own power to be a friend. You will do well tonight to understand this very elementary Christian truth; you can do nothing without Christ!!
If any good work is done in me, it is not I Lord but Thee…
Think again about the quote from the Westminster Catechism,
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.
If man could do anything under our own power, then we would get the glory…but God will not share His glory with any man!! But man cannot do anything in his own strength, including friendship, because Jesus is the Vine. We are but the branch that the Vine supports and sustains!
3. Biblical Friendship for the Believer has Major Consequences.
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:6-11)
To sum Biblical Friendship up:
A. Not abiding in Christ (for friendship or anything else) results in rubbish.
B. Abiding in Christ (for friendship or anything else) has fruitful results.
C. Abiding in Christ (for friendship or anything else) glorifies God and accomplishes our purpose for existing.
D. Jesus is the Perfect Model of True Friendship
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Wanting true, biblical friendship? LOOK UNTO JESUS!!