Pastoral Series

Church Matters: Friendship

   C.S. Lewis valued his longtime friendships with J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and others – and felt that friendship mirrored what the Kingdom of God is and will be more clearly than anything we know on earth, even more than family. Church is friendship.

We get confused though, as we think a friend is somebody we enjoy hanging around with, someone with shared hobbies or a fun person. A friend: will anybody like me? Or want to spend time with me? Aristotle said that “the opposite of a friend is a flatterer.” St. Augustine wrote that a friend is someone who helps you to be wise, and good. It’s not about liking. It’s love, not measuring up or being sufficiently attractive.

In our recent Mental Health series at our church, we explored the way friendship in church is about being able to be open and to let others be open about inner and interpersonal struggles. We are carry darkness around inside us. Friends don’t need to pretend. They trust, they care. Friends love as God loves.

We have recently hosted a churchwide event, and a staff workshop on ACES: Adverse Childhood Experiences – which impact how we function and struggle as grownups. Was there cruelty, or divorce, or too much alcohol, mental illness or neglect in your home? We are learning more and more about the way so many of society’s issues grow out of events and situations in people’s formative years.

The ability to cope, and move forward, is called “resilience.” The greatest factor in whether you have resilience or not, or how resilient your resilience is, is relationship. If you are surrounded or at least accompanied by people who care about you, who will share your struggles and life with you, your resilience strengthens.

Isn’t this why God envisioned we would need Church? We “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). We “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). We are invited in church to be friends with those we might not normally befriend – as the basis of church friendship is Jesus’ remarkable gift to us: “No longer do I call you servants, but friends” (John 15:15). Jesus’ demonstrated how deep this friendship is (on his end at least!) by giving his very life for us, instead of cutting and running when it wasn’t fun or easy any more: “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

“What a friend we have in Jesus.” And if Jesus is your friend, you pick up some unusual friends for yourself. I love to meet someone and discover that he is a friend of someone who is my friend. I’ll take a selfie with my phone and send it to our shared friend, who’s then puzzled how we are together. When Jesus sees his newfound friends together, he’s not puzzled. He knows we love because he’s loved us, and we’ve been inducted into a fresh company of those who are broken but noble, sinful but forgiven, lost but found. Church matters, because friendship – the resilient kind – matters.

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