Admit your need for friendship - extract from foundation module: Gospel Living

 

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If we have a tendency to think of ourselves as self-made, we also have one to think of ourselves as self-sufficient. The fact is we need friends. We need friends to love and serve, and we need friends who will take our godliness seriously. Remember Proverbs 27:6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” That is a comfort because we are in constant need of those wounds. We need people who love us enough to rebuke and challenge us. Remember also Proverbs 27:9: “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” Our default is self-centredness and self-preoccupation. Without friends, our world shrinks and shrivels. Without friends to love and friends to challenge we become less than we were made to be.

Emerson says, “The higher the style we demand of friendship, of course the less easy to establish it with flesh and blood. We walk alone in the world. Friends, such as we desire, are dreams and fables.” 1

The major obstacle to friendship is me. I hate Emerson’s pessimism, but I have to concede its realism. So what are we to do?

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 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, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another . (John 15:12-17)

In Jesus we have the truest of friends: the friend who laid down his life for his friends. In his life and death, we see true friendship of breathtaking proportions. We see a friendship that draws and entices, a friendship that humbles and excites. We also see a friendship that calls us into the friendship with God for which we were made — a friendship that calls us to repentance for not being the friend to God and others that we were made to be.  For in Jesus’ death, at the cross, we also come face to face with the means by which we can begin to be that friend. The cross turns us from our self-obsession and self-interest, acknowledging them as the self-worship they are. Then the Holy Spirit comes alongside as a friend who faithfully helps us become the friend we were made to be.

For friendship is at the very core of who we are as people made in God’s image. The God of the Bible is a God who knows about friendship. As Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he has enjoyed intimate friendship from eternity (see John 1:1). As the Trinity, it is in God’s very nature to be a friend, and we are made to image that in our relationships with each other. At the cross, the Godhead’s friendship was ruptured so that our friendship could be restored.

It is easy to understand Emerson’s pessimism, but he was not thinking of the gospel or the Holy Spirit or the church. The Quakers got it right when they talked of the Society of Friends. Surely the “Me, too!” dimension to friendship must be found among the people of God. As we talk about our Saviour, as we speak about his cross, as we wax eloquent about his death and resurrection and what it means, as we share our struggles and our joys, our hearts should cry in unison, “Me, too!”

It is among God’s people that true friendship is to be modelled and experienced. Church is the Society of Friends, and through the cross, by the Spirit, we are called and equipped to be the kind of friend to others that we want to be, growing more like the friend we have in Jesus!

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1 Emerson, R. W., ‘Friendship’in Essays: First Series (1841), available online at http://www.emersoncentral.com/friendship.htm (accessed 15th November 2013).

 
Beth Butler