Friendship Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Friendship

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Christian friendship is cross-shaped and Christ-directed. As such, it is not simply a casual, low-commitment relationship between two people who happen to share common interests. Rather, it is an arena in which God's people embody the self-giving love of their Savior and move one another towards more abundant life in Jesus. In the words of Aelred of Rievaulx, "The right kind of friendship . . . should begin in Christ, be maintained according to Christ, and have its end and value referred to Christ." (Wesley Hill, Spiritual Friendship, Brazos Press, p. 105.)

In Scripture

While the biblical authors have a great deal to say about human relationships in general (consider, for example, the fifty-nine "one another" passages in the New Testament), they seem to be less interested in "friendship" in particular (see Prov. 17:17 and John 15:13 - 15 for important exceptions). While the language of friendship is scarce in Scripture, examples of friendship are not. Those familiar with the biblical stories might think first of classic duos like David and Jonathan or Ruth and Naomi. Wesley Hill, however, directs our attention elsewhere. In his thought-provoking book Spiritual Friendship, Hill points to the relationship between Simon of Cyrene and Jesus as the best picture of friendship in Scripture. The encounter between these two men is brief. (Luke's account, which is the longest of three in the synoptic gospels, is a single sentence of just nineteen words in the Greek text.) But Hill insists that Simon's willingness to carry Jesus' cross and to be his friend in a time of dire need is iconic of what Christian friendship can and should look like over the long haul.

Points to Ponder

Facebook "friends" At last count, the average adult Facebook user has around 338 "friends." These friends consist of high school classmates who live halfway across the country, third cousins and other long-lost relatives, and crowds of coworkers and other acquaintances from past lives. These people are privy to pictures of our children and our political opinions and updates about our weekend plans. In so many ways, they are freely invited to peek into the windows of our lives. And yet, these virtual friends can be ignored or even "unfriended" and wiped from our lives with the click of button. How might these virtual friendships both reflect and shape our understanding what it means to be a true friend?

Human hungering for friendship In his book on friendship, Wesley Hill observes that there seems to be widespread agreement that "friendship is the freest, the least constrained, the least fixed and determined, of all human loves." Friendship is frequently viewed as a voluntary, opt-in/opt-out relationship that hangs "only by the thread of my and my friend's mutual delight." This is the kind of friendship that many people seem accept as normal in both their virtual and face-to-face relationships. Hill, however, attempts to raise the bar. He argues that not only do we want more from our friendships, but that the gospel demands more from our friendships. True friends must be willing to carry each other's pain and to commit to one another for the long haul. (Hill even suggests that the church find ways to solemnize these commitments.) To explain why Christians should take friendship so seriously, Hill quotes Paul Wadell, who writes: "Christians think differently about friendships because their understanding of friendship is rooted not in rosy accounts of human perfectibility but in a God who remains faithful to us and who never, no matter how egregious our failings, writes us out of the story of divine love." Could it be that this kind of friendship — challenging though it may be — is exactly what so many of us are hungry for?

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.