On Christian Friendship
Friends can be hard to come by.
As we began our freshman year of college in the Fall of 2014, my best friend and I discussed what we were noticing on campus and the people we interacted with. Both of us had grown up attending a private Christian school. Everyone we know around us believed, or at least said they believed, in Jesus. We chose our friends from this pool of people.
Things were different at our university. We weren’t making friends. Not that we weren’t sociable, or we didn’t hang out with people, but there were almost no real connections. We reasoned that it was because of our faith. Christians should absolutely be friends with unbelievers, one might even say we have to, but these friendships can only go so far. There comes a certain barrier that one reaches in a friendship where two people come from two different worldviews and ideologies.
This means that the truest friends for Christians should be Christians. The foundational aspect of faith in Jesus Christ means that you’re obviously not coming from different places —denominational tradition aside.
For example, I’m a Lutheran, and one of my best friends, Corey, is a Presbyterian. Though we don’t necessarily see eye to eye on every doctrinal issue (yet), he is a steadfast friend who ultimately will pull me back to Jesus by, as he so kindly puts it, “grabbing me by my baptism.”
A rather obvious duty of a Christian friend is to remind their brothers and sisters of Christ’s death and resurrection for them, the forgiveness of sins, and the life everlasting. We are to direct our brethren to look for God where He promised He’d be — His Word, the waters of Holy Baptism, and in Holy Communion — and encourage them toward a life of holiness, repentance, and the hope of the Second Coming.
But honestly? Sometimes words are just words. To be sure, they are important, and God’s Word never returns void. However, we sometimes have a tendency to intellectualize these words. In times of trouble, many a Christian knows what the Scriptures say based on how they were taught or their upbringing.
How often do we attempt to fix the problem of our Christian sibling simply by quoting Scripture and leave it at that? I am guilty of it. I’ve studied theology fairly well, and in my own arrogance I’ve wanted what I said to be the final word, the thing that finally changes their life. Or something.
That’s never happened.
Though there is a tendency toward anti-intellectualism in the church, I think that we have also forgotten how to empathize. We’ve forgotten how to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and weep with those who are weeping.
Something else that comes to mind is the example of the addict. They’re detoxing. And they need to not be around an environment that will cause them to give into their addiction that will drive them to a place they do not want to go. They need an environment conducive to that end goal. Consider the Christian, weary from a rough week at work, school, or perhaps there are illnesses or financial problems. Sometimes we just need to be around our Christian family. Sometimes just being in their very presence helps us stay focused, and not become overwhelmed by whatever is going on.
To be sure, speaking God’s Word can never be a bad thing. Advice, at the proper time, can be beneficial. But just being there is the demonstration of the love of Christ. Bringing someone food, inviting them over for dinner, playing video games and drinking beer if you’re of age — that means you, Corey— these things bring the body of Christ together because it is uniting them in a love displayed in action, a testament to and a shadow of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.