“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I have been thinking lately of the power of friendship. How it can break down barriers of culture, faith and religious affiliation if we value it enough.
The friendship relationship is one where we choose to engage. We choose to allow another into our lives, to be vulnerable about ourselves, investing time and effort for long term rewards. Real and lasting friendship takes time and lots of it.
I’ve noticed that those people who place a high value on friendship tend to have real strength of character; they don’t just value friendship, they value people.
My experience of building friendships with people of different cultures and beliefs has resulted in countless opportunities to cross bridges and share my faith. Bridges that could have easily divided and separated by cultivating fear, misunderstanding and defensiveness.
By showing interest in the lives of those friends they have in turn shown interest in mine. By listening to their worldview and appreciating their experiences, they have done likewise. By spending quality time with them and supporting them where I can, the friendship has strengthened.
This looks a lot like humility;
‘Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.’- Philippians 2 v 3-4
Following Jesus means becoming the kind of friend that Jesus was.
He was a friend who listened, responded, invited in, cared for, shared wisdom and spoke hard truths. He regarded not the consequences of association for His reputation, among the so called ‘respectable’ religious leaders of the day.
He was a friend that stuck around in the hard times.
Befriending in this way will mean sacrifice. It may mean that we don’t get mutual support in areas of our faith (if they are Atheists or of another religion). They may not understand fully what our lives are like as we journey with Christ. And, they may be susceptible to influence from our Enemy as the closer they become to us the more likely they are a target for him.
However, the benefits far outweigh any costs. Friendship offers unique ways to bless, love and demonstrate the heart of God without overtly preaching the Gospel.
As we offer friendship that is tangible and real, we live aspects of the Gospel before them.
It can be hard to be a good friend if we have not recognised or understood the friendship of our Saviour. We need a revelation of the friendship of God in our lives, to accept that in Christ we are now friends of God.
Being a friend to unbelievers is one thing, but establishing good friendships among our brothers and sisters in the family of God can bring issues of its own. Friendship is an essential part of loving relationships; therefore if we are to walk in love towards other believers we must cultivate honest and sincere friendships with one another.
Imagine what the impact would be if we, and every believer in Jesus were known for the strength and quality of our friendships with others?
When adversity comes to our friends… and it will surely come, we can love them through it. As His word says; friends are born for adversity. That is the moment we truly show what Jesus is like, we arise and prove that we follow the one who exemplifies authentic friendship.
‘One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’- Proverbs 18 v 24
What value do you place on friendship?