Is God In Our Friendships?
“Bear with one another and forgive one another. If anyone has a quarrel against anyone, even as Christ forgave you, so you must do.” Colossians 3:13 (MEV)
Our lives are so full these days. With families, work, friends, and possibly serving others, we often have very little time for ourselves. How do we find room for all of it? It’s always a balance act! This can be especially true with our friendships.
It’s obvious to even the most casual observer that the “traditional” family has been in decline for decades. Consider just two statistics from a recent study by the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress: in 1960, 5% of births were to unmarried women, and by 2021 that had risen to over 40%. At the same time, in 1960 nearly 90% of children lived in homes with two parents while today number has fallen to less than 70%.
Friendships Are Our New Family
Yet, God created us for relationship, and we still crave stability. It’s no surprise, then, that a “new” family is being created: our friendships, our tribe, or community of friends.
Friendships, especially in this changing social climate, are meant to bring us joy, companionship, and fun! Although the Bible itself focuses mostly on marriage and family, it has quite a bit to say about our friendships. For example:
- One of the best-known passages in the New Testament is John 15:13, where Jesus tells his followers “Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends.”
- Jesus goes further in Matthew 12:50, proclaiming “For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
- The writer of Ecclesiastes describes the strength in friends this way “And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Megan Garber, culture writer for The Atlantic, offered a modern perspective on friendships in a 2017 article:
“Friendships, increasingly, are playing an organizing role in society. Long conceived as side dishes to the main feast—marriage, kids, the nuclear family above all—friendships, more and more, are helping to define people’s sense of themselves in the world. During a time of emergent adulthood and geographic mobility, friendships are lending stability—and meaning—to people’s, and especially young people’s, lives.”
3 Ways Our Faith Should Influence Our Friendships
With so much change happening in our own lives, in the lives of those around us, and in the lives of our children, how should we view friendships from a biblical perspective? How can our faith shape and mold the friendships we make?
Friends in Faith Put Jesus First. Our relationship with Jesus should be above all others (Luke 14:26). Yet, receiving God’s blessings can often create a sense of “everything is great” so we tend to skip spending quality time with HIM, spending more time with friends instead. Our friendships should, in fact, always point us back to Jesus, not to each other.
Sometimes our faith is strengthened by our friendships, I know mine is. In these moments, we embrace our faith with our friends, which can be a wonderful journey indeed.
There are other times, however, where we must check our hearts. Are we looking to our friends for something we need or a longing inside of us instead of turning to our Savior and Guide? Remember how Jesus answered the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 22:37-40: “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
This is when we are reminded that our needs are met first in Jesus, then in each other.
Friends in Faith are Encouragers. Real friends encourage one another with honesty and grace. So many of us have experienced friendships based on a “what’s in it for me” attitude, which is never a good thing. The Apostle Paul offers us a role model in encouragement. Even while in prison, Paul sent words of encouragement to believers at the churches of Ephesus (Ephesians 1:15-16), Phillipi (Philippians 1:3-4), and Colosse (Colossians 1:3).
The friends that last are the ones that aren’t about their individual desires or needs, but instead grounded in a desire to love and encourage one another based on an unshakeable faith in God. Those are bonds that are forever because they have a higher value beyond our own concerns.
Friends in Faith Are on Assignment and Have One Purpose. Our purpose for the time we have on earth is the same for all people: To know God, glorify Him, and tell others about Him – that’s it. While our callings are unique to each of us and may change throughout our lifetimes, our purpose never changes.
So, what does that have to do with our friendships? Our friendships have an eternal purpose beyond just relationships we choose with others. We are meant to fulfill this assignment with each other to advance the Kingdom as brothers and sisters in Christ! As the writer of Hebrews put it, “Therefore, holy brothers, partakers in a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 3:1).
The Ultimate Purpose of Friendship
I love this quote by author Kelly Needham: “We don’t allow our goal to become maintaining our comfortable social circles. We must be content with fewer friends and seasonal friendships. Otherwise, while we run from one coffee date to another, we’ll lose the ability to see the lonely neighbor in the house next door or the struggling single mom at the store.”
The interesting thing about authentic friendships grounded in God is when we walk together, we are one in our faith. When Jesus is first, we are not hungry for false needs in each other, we are only there for eternal friendship and building the Kingdom of God.
It’s true, Jesus has everything we need and more. Amen!
May God continuously lead your path.