Almost every time I drive my kids to school in the morning, we rehearse their mission statement.
“Be yourself. Be a good friend. Be a good learner.”
These simple statements frame up a lot of our discussions around how they navigate life at school; a framework for them to make decisions and figure out relationships when Mom and Dad aren’t around. In a way, the statements are a “north star” that I as their father have planted in their sky.
I care deeply about my children’s friendships because, on the whole, I didn’t have a lot of healthy friendships or modeling of friendship growing up. I played a bit of catch up once I got to high school and college in some healthy and unhealthy ways. For a long time, friendship seemed elusive and always just out of reach.
As an adult, I’ve learned that gospel friendships are a major factor in our quality of life and discipleship.
C.S. Lewis is often quoted on this topic:
“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
Many of us feel shame around friendship because we are constantly told and shown that friendship comes easy for everyone else (this is a lie). It seems everyone else has lifetime best friends (another lie) with whom they never disagree (lies) and always share great meals together in hip locations (more lies). Social media is more media than social, and it makes it more difficult to remember that real world relationships are more than a highlight reel. Gospel friendship is a treasure…and that treasure takes time and work.
Let’s start with a look at what gospel friendship is not.
1. Gospel friendship is not just digital.
Our online presence is a mere shadow of reality, and often misleading of what we truly are. I don’t mean interaction online with people you do physical life with. I’m talking about people that know what they know about you because of your social media feed. Any friendship rooted only in that space is destined for minimal impact and depth. You are more than the sum of your favorite dishes and vacations. You are more than a status update. When we receive positive attention for the curated or fake version of us, it feels like counterfeit love, because it is.
2. Gospel friendship is not shallow.
If you never share openly about what’s happening behind closed doors or what keeps you up at night, you have yet to discover true gospel friendship. Undoubtedly, discernment and care should be used in inviting others into the “messy” parts of your life. But if no one knows the gritty stuff of your life, you’re blockading the roads God has built for you to be encouraged, supported, and truly known.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. - Proverbs 17:17 ESV
3. Gospel friendship is not built on sin.
Drunkenness, gossip, and sexual immorality are all possible activities through which one can form relationships. In the video above, my daughter Harper said you shouldn’t copy your friends when they make bad choices. This is great advice. It’s easy to forge unions when you share a common enemy, a common struggle, or a common sin. Alcoholics tend to know lots of heavy drinkers. Gossipers recognize and gravitate towards others who like to share juicy bits of news. This is never the foundation to healthy relationships of any kind.
A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. – Proverbs 16:28 ESV
4. Gospel friendship is not forever, yet.
99% of the time, friendship is given to us for a season. True friends are rare and when they do come, they are often for a particular chapter of life. This temporary nature to friendship reminds us of the mirror in 1 Cor 13 or when James 4 says that our lives are a mist. The best things (including friends) that we enjoy in this life barely scratch the surface of what heaven holds for us. When Christ returns, that begins never-ending relationships free of conflict or separation.
With a bit of understanding on what gospel friendship is not, let’s look at how a perfect friend does friendship. The next post in this series will look at what we can learn about friendship from the life of Christ.