For the past 4 days I was on a trip with a group of 3 other guys. We drove from Cleveland to Indianapolis for The Gospel Coalition 2019 Conference and we had a blast! Tomorrow I’m going to write about my main takeaways from this conference, but I will say it was my favorite conference I’ve ever attended. On top of the conference being extremely helpful for me I also was helped by spending some time with some biblical friends. So, I want to briefly highlight the importance of men having biblical friendships with each other. To put it plainly, men should be biblical friends as a direct result of being saved and included in the family of God with each other.
- Biblical friendship is this meaningful friendship that is built on more than just “Oh you and I both like the same video games so we should be friends.” Biblical friendship is built on more than just working with some guys, or going to the same gym with some, or being fans of the same sports teams. Biblical friendship is much more than that, because it is built on the character of God! The God we worship-the one found in the bible is called the Triune God meaning that God is one but exists in three persons. This means that God Himself in the Trinity is the most fundamental expression of community, relationship, and friendship. And since God created human beings in His own image then it is true that we also are made to be in community and friendships with one another.
- So, why are friendships and relationships so hard? Why do we fail so badly? Why do we turn on the TV and see some of our male role models failing in very tragic ways, and thus setting bad examples for what it means to be a man? It all comes down to the fall of humanity. When Adam and Eve committed the first sins against God what happened was our relationship with God was broken, but so was our relationships with other people.
- Where we see our friendships restored both with God and with others is at the cross where Jesus died. Jesus entered into this world with all these messed up relationships with sinners who do not know God, and who are killing and hurting each other, and Jesus lived a perfect life, and then he went to the cross and took the punishment we deserve to pay because of our sin, and in doing this Jesus actually brings humans into a relationship with God the Father.
- In John 15:13-15, Jesus says “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends!” That means for everyone who believes in Jesus not only is our relationship with God restored, but also we are called by God to be in proper friendship with one another!
- So, what is biblical friendship? Biblical friendship is Christ centered! This is from a friend of mine named Jonathan Holmes who defines biblical friendship like this….
“Biblical friendship exists when two or more people, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ, pursue him and his kingdom with intentionality and vulnerability.”
- I can point out a few things from this definition. First of all, let’s point out the part “biblical friendship exists when two or more people, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ.” Notice the qualifications for who is able to succeed as biblical friends-the qualification is just that these 2 or more people are simply bound together by one common thing-and that one common thing is faith in Jesus. In order to truly be good friends with somebody in the biblical meaning of the term-that friendship needs to be driven by a shared faith in Jesus Christ. Friendships are not to be driven primarily by things that the person can give you such as status, wealth, services, etc. The bottom line and bare bones minimum for a biblical friendship is that you and your friend or friends are to be bound by your faith in the Gospel. It is because we are loved by the friend of sinners-Jesus, that we as guys are actually able to begin meaningful relationships, because Jesus began a meaningful relationship with us first.
- True biblical friendship then is that once we are bound with another believer in Jesus, we together “pursue him and his kingdom with intentionality and vulnerability.” We are bound together by our faith in Jesus, and biblical friends together pursue Jesus. Meaning that our relationships always push one another not away from Jesus, and not the same distance to Jesus, but actually towards Jesus. And as we pursue Christ, we are to do so with….
1. Intentionality. Meaning you act in ways which are purposeful. So, in friendship it means you pursue Jesus together by doing things that actually have a point! When you guys hang out together your conversations should be meaningful and deep, not just surface level. When you go places together, they are to be places which challenge your friendship and cultivate it, rather than just doing things for no reason.
- And also as we pursue Christ, we are to do so with…
2. Vulnerability. This means that as you and your friend or friends pursue Jesus intentionally-you are also meant to make yourself open and exposed to damage. Meaning that you don’t go into a friendship and you don’t continue a relationship closed to the possibility that you may actually learn through your friend-and you are not to close yourself off from that friend in terms of sharing your emotions, your goals, your dreams and your hopes. We are made to be in biblical friendship which means that we open ourselves up even to the productive criticisms of our friends.
Ok, moving on to then to the question “how does this look practically with our friends?” I think the following terms are helpful as we think through this question. As I go through them, think of your friendships and be honest with yourself about if your friendships look like this.
- You need equality if you want quality. Notice here the equality side of this-that friendship is not one sided. So many times you can spot a bad friendship when you see one person pouring into a friendship and caring way more about it than the other person. True friendship is an equal commitment from both people. So here’s my amazing quote for friendship- you need equality if you want quality.
- Friends celebrate and receive celebration. If you look at your friendships and you realize that you guys just hang out together and you never actually celebrate anything together that is a red flag! Why? Because it means that either A. You guys have not met any big goals which deserve to be celebrated and that’s bad OR B. You guys don’t care enough to celebrate together-either way this is not biblical friendship.
- Real friends challenge their friends and are challenged by their friends. Often times we don’t like to be challenged, but actually all meaningful relationships guys will have in this life will be the ones that challenge them. And these relationships will not actually be from all the people who are exactly like them, but it will be with people who are different from them so they challenge their preconceived ideas, and stretch them to think outside the box. True friends don’t just tell you all the reasons you are bad-that isn’t helpful. We often have friends who point out the bad stuff like, “Dude you always are this or you are always that…” We can’t stop there with our friends, we actually need to work with our friends and love them enough to get to the root of why we are the way we are, and to help each other, be patient with one another, and hold each other accountable for pulling out the bad root which causes bad fruit-which is our bad behaviors, our bad language, our bad attitudes.
- Biblical friendship is about serving. We are often too proud for this. We mask this pridewith attitudes of self-reliance, hard work, ethic, principle, etc. But, in reality we need to be willing to allow others to serve us out of their love for us. Not that we are to take advantage of this or take it for granted, but that we are to appreciate and reciprocate this love.