Biblical Friendship (a cure for loneliness)
I believe that one of the greatest reasons for loneliness in the church today is a general lack of genuine biblical friendships.
We could define biblical friendships as Christians following Jesus side-by-side, so close as to help bear one another’s deepest burdens as they make their way to heaven. This definition hits the main point: the ultimate goal of biblical friendship is not satisfaction in the friendship alone, but present and future satisfaction in Jesus. And this is accomplished when both friends seek each other’s progress towards Jesus.
Two Things to Do to Start a Biblical Friendship
If you can agree with me that that’s what biblical friendship is (at least generally), then I want to suggest two things we must be doing to truly cultivate these unions.
1. Be wanting Jesus.
We have to realize that biblical friendships can’t be started or kept unless we want Jesus. That’s the prerequisite – a genuine desire for Jesus. And this can even be a want to want Jesus. But that has to be there.
Tim Keller, in The Meaning of Marriage, writes, “Christian friendship is not simply about going to concerts together or enjoying the same sporting event. It is the deep oneness that develops as two people journey together toward the same destination, helping one another through the dangers and challenges along the way.” That “same destination” is Jesus!
Notice, again, that biblical friendship is not about “friendship alone” but about a destination that you work towards together.
Consider Paul’s striking words in Philippians 3:8, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Ask yourself, do I want to know Jesus like Paul did? Do I want to gain Christ? Am I willing to suffer the loss of all things for the sake of gaining Christ? Our capacity for biblical friendships is dependent on our willingness to lose all things for the sake of Jesus.
At the same time, there has to be a desire to see others see Jesus. Like most team-based sports, you don’t individually win, but collectively win. Jesus didn’t go to the cross so that you alone would be saved and filled with joy, but so that the entire church in her multitude would be saved and filled with joy.
We want to lose all for the sake of Christ, and we want to see others lose all for the sake of Christ.
2. Be unnaturally intentional.
Biblical friendships can by all means happen organically, but many times it takes determined hard work – like most good things in life. We need to do an informal inventory of our friendships and ask ourselves, which of these friends am I going to seek God with? Who do I want to see and help grow closer to Christ?
The next step is the most unnatural and awkward. You’re going to want to get them on board with you. Get a hold of them and say,“Hey, I care about our friendship. I care so much about it that I want to be more intentional with you as we run the race and fight the fight of faith together, side-by-side. This doesn’t mean I want to stop playing monopoly with you, or go shopping with you, or go on a hike with you, or whatever, but it does mean I want there to be intentional times of sharing our burdens with one another, praying with one another, worshiping God through song together, and studying God’s Word together. And if all our time in one week or two weeks or whatever is filled completely with those former things, then I’m willing to sacrifice some of those things to intentionally do this with you. Are you in?” And of course, say that in your own words.
This will probably be awkward. But here’s what I can say to encourage you: those of your friends who are genuinely born again, Jesus-loving people, will be in. And don’t get weird if one of your friends declines. It doesn’t mean they’re not Christian, they just might have so much on their plate right now that even the idea of doing this scares them.
And especially at the beginning, being intentional about literally planning times to do this will help. So, for example, your friend is coming over to watch a movie, so you plan to meet one hour earlier or later to talk about what you’ve learned in the Word and pray with one another.
So, you start biblical friendships by wanting Jesus and wanting friends to want and gain Jesus, and then by being awkwardly intentional. I believe that if we saw more Christians being serious about biblical friendships, then there would be less lonely people in our gatherings.
Keller, Timothy, and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, NY: Dutton, 2011.