Friendship is not a concept foreign to the Bible. Friendship is often used to illustrate something negative. Proverbs warns us about what bad friends may do. We see Job surrounded by bad friends. Many of the prophets lament their situations and express it using friendship terms.
There’s one use that, in my opinion, is especially heartwrenching.
49 Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 50 And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
Jesus wasn’t betrayed by one of the Pharisees or some random Roman. Jesus was betrayed by a friend. I have to imagine that Judas’ suicide was an almost direct reaction to what Jesus said. The contrast between the two men would never have been more evident. Judas sends Jesus to His death in exchange for some money and Jesus not only goes but addresses His betrayer as “friend.” I find that to be one of the most emotional portions of Scripture.
I’m convinced friendship is important because friendship is what made the betrayal even worse. Jesus welcomed Judas into His life. They broke bread, prayed, studied, worshiped, served (presumably), and talked face to face. Jesus wasn’t friends with everyone in the same way. Judas was in a unique position.
If you have close friends who you can count on and who you enjoy being around, then I hope this serves as a reminder. If you don’t have close friends, then I hope this encourages you to make a change or two.
Christoper McCandless’ story is made doubly depressing as we find out he saw the futility of finding happiness alone and then couldn’t do anything about it once he had the epiphone. Christians are called to live together. We aren’t called to isolation. In the high priestly prayer we don’t see Jesus pray for us to stay locked in our houses. We don’t see Him pray for us to go to church, sing, listen to a sermon and then go back home. We see Jesus quite clearly speak in plural terms. When Jesus is praying to God, we should really pay attention.
Christians living together doesn’t mean we all live in a commune, but that we live our lives together. We share experiences, struggles, and joys. We call these people when we give birth to a child or when we have a miscarriage. We call these people to invite them over for dinner and we call them to apologize for wronging them.
The 25-35-married-with-kids demographic seems to be the most susceptible to friendlessness. If you find yourself in that exact scenario, then I implore you to seek out friendships. Start a group or class in your church. Find other believers in your area who are in a similar stage of life and start a little group. Friendships are good for you and, quite likely, you are exactly the person someone else needs in their life right now.
Can you be a Christian and not have many close friends? Can you sorta just mozy on through life by yourself? Is all you need to survive this life a saving faith in Christ? You don’t need friends to be saved. Your faith in Christ is #1. Friendships fade but the world of the Lord endures forever. Right? Yes. But this isn’t an either/or scenario! You can live your Christian life without close friends, but why would you want to?
There was a point a few years ago when I can recall looking at my phone and looking through my text messages and most all of them were between me and my wife, my mom, one of my only friends, or a coworker about something work related. Text messages aren’t some command God calls us to send but I found it a bit depressing on my part. Did I really not have regular contact with anyone else? Was I not regularly interacting with other people from my church? The friend I exchanged texts with is a strong believer but he wasn’t at my church (If he’s truly converted then he should be at my church. Amen???) I was basically going to church on Sunday, saying my hellos, worshiping, and then saying goodbye until the next Sunday unless we had Bible study during that week.
Intellectually, I grew a ton during that time. I was taking in sermons, commentaries, lectures, reading the first 1/3 of every major theological title, yet I wasn’t doing a whole lot with that information. It just became data stored in my brain. Eventually my church began a Sunday school class for young married couples. The response was overwhelming. I was able to use the data stored in my head when I began regularly teaching in the class in addition to the Bible study I was leading. It serves as a wonderful outlet for me to use my spiritual giftedness but it also serves me in providing me with the opportunity to make new friends and to get closer with people I was already friends with.
As the friendships and bonding have grown deeper so has the impact of regularly gathering.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
The emphasis here is often on not forsaking the assembly, and rightly so; those of us who aren’t missing church aren’t ok just because we haven’t missed a Sunday. The opposite of missing church is encouraging one another. Not only should we regularly attend church we should ALSO encourage one another.
My text message situation is 180* from what it used to be. Now I’ve got some good buddies who I can talk to about any number of topics. 95% of my texts are not serious in nature (which is probably how it should be) and I love it. This is in no way a testament to my personality or my likability – neither of which are, upon first meeting, overly impressive. This is a testament to God meeting a need in my life that I didn’t really know I had. It’s also a testament to how much better my wife is at assessing our needs than I often am: “Honey, your dad’s Sunday school class is great but it’s ALL retired people.”
Find some friends. Put yourself out there. Sit down with your wife and figure out what people in your church you can invite over for dinner. Then invite them and be shocked at how well you get along and be even more shocked when they confess they were feeling friendless, too.
You can live your Christian life without many friends or with just your wife but if you invest in people and look to encourage them, your Christian life will become a whole lot sweeter.