A sign of a healthy community is genuine friendships, and a sign of a healthy church is that it nurtures friendships.
Everyone needs friends. “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.” ~ Helen Keller. “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt. “Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest, it’s about who walked in to your life, said ‘I’m here for you,’ and proved it.” ~ Unknown“I like to hang out with people who make me forget to look at my phone.”
When you have something to celebrate, or some news of grief, or some burden to share, who do you call? These are your friends.
Five realities of true friendship
Friends will protect and defend you.
In Acts 9:26-27 we read about Paul following his conversion, desiring to meet with the other disciples. The disciples avoided him not believing that he was truly a disciple. All but one man, Barnabas. We read that Barnabas “took hold of him and brought him to the apostles.”
Real friends “take a hold of you” in tough times and advocate for you. They testify on your behalf. They look out for your welfare with little or no regard for their own well-being. Barnabas believed in Paul. Friends believe in one another.
Friends stick with you in tough times.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” True friends are those who will walk with you through the tough times.
In Acts 13:42-52 we find Paul and Barnabas working alongside one another on their first missionary journey. Though they experienced a great response to their preaching, they also were run out of town. During this time, they were abandoned by John Mark, but Barnabas and Paul stuck together. (Acts 13:13)
Friends are sometimes only for a season.
In Acts 15:36-41 we read about a matter of tension between Barnabas and Paul over the restoration of John Mark to their endeavors. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along on their upcoming journey, but Paul was not willing to let him come along, having been let down by him in the past. This created such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another. Barnabas took John Mark and went to Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas and headed to Syria and Cilicia.
One of the realities of life is change. Circumstances change, jobs may change, families may move, and time passes. As we grow, mature, and run the race set before us, we will find that there are times we are left behind by others, or just as likely leave some others behind. Others may join us in our race, and run alongside of us for a time. We are encouraged, and the burdens are lighter while they run alongside of us.
I remember early in my ministry here in Spartanburg, there were some folks at Park Hills that did not want to move to our present location. I remember preaching about running the race “set before you.” (Heb 12:1-2) A church is a living organism, a family, and will therefore experience change. I shared that day that as a church we were running a race. Many believed this race included a relocation. We agreed to set a pace that all could match, but we would not stop running if some refused to run. Our church is facing some changes. How we look, how we do worship, how we minister, how we educate, how we disciple others, these are all elements that change over time. We sit here today, having seen many folks over the years who departed to other churches. However, we also have many new faces that have come alongside us and joined the race with us. Friendships sometimes are only for a season. Change of circumstances and changes in friendships are an inevitable reality of life.
Friends speak the truth in love
In 2 Corinthians 2:4, Paul writes, “For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” Paul is referring to his first letter to the church at Corinth, when he had some harsh words of correction and rebuke to them for their practices.
True friends will call you out for your faults, because they love you and want the best for you. Paul further instructed the church at Ephesus writing, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Friends want to see their friends grow in maturity and will speak truth to one another to assist in the maturation process.
Friends come alongside of you to help you become more like Christ.
John wrote, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Real friends will make you stronger in your walk with Christ. If someone is leading you away from Christ, are they really your friend? Romans 14:19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Community Challenge: Take someone to lunch this week and seek to build them up in Christ