Discipline of Friendship
“When thou hast found such a man, and proved the sincerity of his friendship; when he has been faithful. . . to thee, grapple him to thyself with hooks of steel and never let him go.” - Charles Spurgeon
The Men’s Ministry of Missio Dei Church is walking through Kent Hugh’s book Disciplines of a Godly Man. Tonight we are going to be talking about the discipline of friendship in our men’s study. In my short 48.5 years of living, I am convinced that the vast majority of men are relationally challenged and starved. This is not coming from just observation, but from my own personal experience.
Sure, they will tell you that they have friends. They will give you a list of guys who they text or call occasionally, are a part of their fantasy football league, watch sporting events with, or guys they might go to get things done with. However, if you would perch yourself in a corner and watch what those friendships are made up of you will see that most often those connections are comprised of reporting facts, sharing some mutually enjoyed experiences, or emotionally disconnected activity.
I think one of the biggest blind spots for men (and women) in modern western culture is our undervaluation of friendship. We have no category for non-romantic love, like David and Jonathan or Sam and Frodo. Sadly, most men are lonelier than they even realize.
David Smith in his book Friendless American Male, quotes Larry Richard who says
“…in church we sit together and sing together ad greet one another cheerily as we leave at the end of the service. We do all these things, sometimes for years, without forming any real personal Christian relationships. Our words are often superficial. The church, therefore, becomes a place where Christians live alone together.”
If this is true, and I believe that there is quite a bit of truth in there, this is a sad commentary for the church. We can’t get suckered in to believing that close, intimate friendships is primarily, if not exclusively, for those weak and immature people who are emotionally needy. Friendship is one of the primary means God uses to strengthen his people. Since God has wired us for relationship, we all need friends “who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) and “loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17).
To help us drill into what friendship might look like, Drew Hunter in his book Made for Friendship: The Relationship That Halves Our Sorrows and Doubles Our Joys offers us a definition of friendship:
“Friendship is an affectionate bond forged between two people as they journey through life with openness and trust.”
Yikes! If we are honest, those “affectionate bonds” scare the living day lights out of us for multiple reasons. We’d rather have microwave relationships which require very little attention and are cooked up in just a matter of minutes instead of intimate relationships that are intentionally nurtured over the course of a lifetime. It sounds like a lot of work.
Thinking about another thing of our plate could be quite overwhelming because there is a time component to it, right? We are finite creatures with finite time here on earth. We want to have a vibrant devotional life, be involved in church activities, care for our family, make a living, stay healthy, steward our possessions, serve Christ and others, and get enough rest. How to juggle it all?
And then there is that whole affectionate thing…
How do we cultivate these kinds of affectionate bonds?
It starts off recognizing and embracing the fact that God, who is the epitome of relational, has created us in his image to be relational creatures. Friendship is not a human construct, but it exists because God befriended us, and created us to befriend one another. So, the real Christian is not a solitary life, but one lived out in relationships, in community, where we experience mutual love and the knitting together of souls (1 Samuel 18:1).
If God has created us to be hardwired for relationships, then it will require us saying yes to investing in these critical friendships. We can no longer offer “I just don’t have time” as an excuse. If it is true that there is no time in your schedule for friendship, then it is high time to start culling our calendars. “If we want biblical friendship,” Jonathan Holmes wrote, “we must be willing to invest a resource that is limited and irreplaceable. We must invest our time.”
This time together will be comprised of unrushed shared meals and drinks, build bigger than life bonfires, belly laughter, tears of shared pain, and the having intentional, down to earth conversations about our hopes, dreams, struggles, and failures.
I pray that Missio Dei Church - PCA becomes a family where deep, authentic, gospel-centered friendships are fostered. You know, the kind where we are willing to risk our temporary discomfort for long-term joy.
God, would You make us good friends—gospel friends.
Smith, David W. Friendless American Male. Regal Books, 1983, p 21.
Hunter, Drew. Made for Friendship: The Relationship That Halves Our Sorrows and Doubles Our Joys (p. 80). Crossway. Kindle Edition.
Holmes, Jonathan. The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship (pp. 63-64). Cruciform Press. Kindle Edition.