O Friendship, where art thou?

Our culture of fast-paced communication and social media has replaced real-time interactions. We seem to have forgotten the value of a simple coffee date.

Up to 60% of Australians feel lonely ‘quite often’. This is according to a recent Lifeline survey and the results should not surprise us. The loneliness epidemic is creeping up on our churches too. We are more able than ever to connect with one another through technology. We have plenty of ministries and plenty of discipleship programs. But, we are so often missing a key Biblical principle – friendship. There are hundreds of resources about marriage, singleness and leadership. Friendship, on the other hand, is a powerful principle which is severely underrated.

1 Samuel 18:3 says, ‘Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul’. We can be fairly confident that Jonathan and David would not have reported feeling lonely ‘quite often’ because they were in a covenant of friendship. This is far from the only example of friendship in the bible. Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with them. What does the bible have to say about friendship?

We Need Each Other

In the beginning, when Adam walked in paradise with God, there was still something that was ‘not good’. Adam was not made to be alone, he needed a friend. Moses needed Aaron, Elijah needed Elisha and Naomi needed Ruth. At Jesus’ crucifixion in Matthew’s Gospel the women watching on are described as those who had ‘cared for his needs’. When Jesus became a human, he needed friends. So, why do we so often think we can go it alone?

We Are a Body

Throughout Paul’s letters, gospel unity is a clear theme. If the Church is the Body of Christ, surely the least we can expect is to be friends with one another. In fact, friendship is part of our identity and calling as Christians. Galatians 6:2 commands, ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfil the law of Christ’. This is the biblical picture of friendship, a steadfast earthly picture of what Christ has done for us. As Proverbs 17:17 puts it, ’A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity’.

Friend Request Culture

Despite the Bible’s clear expectations for friendship, we so often fall in line with our culture’s expectations. Western society is increasingly individualistic. This is a direct attack on genuine friendships, as the lies of individualism make us believe we are capable of coping on our own. We fear being vulnerable and reaching out for help. We are jealous of our time, too busy with work, or even church, to spend time cultivating friendships. Our culture of fast-paced communication and social media has replaced real-time interactions. We seem to have forgotten the value of a simple coffee date.

It will take work for us to welcome biblical principals of friendship back into our church. It takes effort to be countercultural and pursue deep friendships which can bear the weight of one another’s burdens. But, like David and Jonathan entered into a covenant – we must too. Friendship is a choice, and one which will be of huge benefit to our churches as we fight the growing issue of loneliness.

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