Refresh: Friendship

Good morning.  My name is Phil Human and that was a cute little video.  Ahh!  This morning we are in our fourth week of a series we are calling refresh.  And the idea is to get back to some of the basics – the important things in life.  And so we talked in week one about the idea of slowing down in life – of eliminating hurry.

Two weeks ago Jim talked about refreshing our spiritual habits.  Things like bible reading and scripture memorization – those ancient, time tested spiritual habits that, if employed regularly will refresh our soul.

Last week we asked the question, “What does God want FOR us.  Not from us.  But For us.  And we learned that the word is rest.  God wants us to rest in our identity as a cherished daughter or beloved son.  We learned that our soul will only rest when it rests in something that cannot be lost or stolen or walk away from us.

Today we’re talking about friendship.  Refreshing our friendships will refresh our soul.

This morning we’ll answer two questions.

What it friendship?

What is the biblical description of a friend?

What is friendship?  Friendship is a form of love.  It’s one of what many philosophers consider four types of love in the world.  There is

Agape Love –  the unconditional Love of God.  God’s kind of love. 

Family Love – the love of family. 

Romantic Love – Eros love

And friend love – phila love.   

Now sometimes there is a doubling up of some of these loves-  for instance you want to be friends with your spouse.  Right?  You want there to be a spillover – that your spouse is also your friend.  But – not just a friend.  And sometimes hardness develops in a marriage if one or the other begins to feel like, our marriage is like two friends rooming together.  That’s not good, right.  Marriage has to be more than just friends.

Sometimes friendships can develop into romantic love.  But many a person has felt the unique pain that comes from getting placed in the friend zone by a person you were hoping might want to walk into the romance zone.

Some people have a brother or sister who is a best friend, and that’s truly a wonderful thing when it happens.  But again, it’s more than a friendship there.

Author Timothy Keller points out that in some cultures like ours, romantic love is elevated above all the others.  And so if you go to the checkout stands the magazines are filled with articles about who is sleeping with who.  And who is not sleeping with who anymore.

You don’t see articles about who became friends with one another in Hollywood.  And this is because we live in a culture that – one might say – idolizes romantic love.

In other cultures, the love from a family is elevated above all others.  You marry in an effort to make your family stronger.  Romantic love has little to do with the arranged marriages you find in large parts of the world.  That’s something we hopeless romantics in the West cannot comprehend.

But the interesting thing is that in either of these cultures – whether it’s a culture that puts Eros on the top of the chain, or the love of a family on top – both of these cultures will end up putting friendship on the bottom of the chain.

And this is a problem.  Because what ends up happening is that friendship love gets squeezed out of our calendars.  We have to tend to our family and our spouse, and unless we slow down in our life, our friendships suffer.

And that’s a bad thing.  Friends are God’s gift to us to help us in this difficult journey.  If we want to refresh our souls, we will tend to our friendships.

C.S Lewis says that Friendship might not be necessary for survival, but, like music or art, it sure makes life beautiful.

So how does the Bible treat friendship?  Does the bible treat it like a third string quarterback?  Absolutely not!  In fact – many scholars believe the first book of the bible that was written was probably Job.

Job is a friendship book.  His world collapses and his friends show up to minister to him and care for him.  11 When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. 

13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.

And that’s powerful.  Now Job’s friends had bad theology, but they were good friends.  Do you have any friends that would do that?  Am I a friend who would do that?

Check out these Proverbs about friendship…

Proverbs 17:17 NASB

17 A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 18:24 NIV

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

What are these verse saying?  They are saying the same thing – your brother or sister will probably be there fore you in times of adversity.  That’s their job!  They might be there even if they don’t really like you that much.  But a friend!

Your family has to be there.  But a friend is there for you voluntarily.  Your friend chose to be there.  To sit with you in your times of trial.  They chose to say, “You’ve got a friend in me.”  And THAT is even closer than a brother.  Even more impressive than family love.

Which is why, by the way, it’s difficult to have more than just a few close friends.  Most Americans will say they two or three close friends.  They have some who are closer than others- but BFF’s?   Small group.

Even Jesus was like this – Jesus is interesting – because the bible said he had a large group of people who followed him and became part of his group – there were 72 people in that larger group.  And that group included Women, by the way.

Jesus had friends who were women.  Our culture has a hard time accepting biblical examples of good friends.  Jesus was good friends with Mary Magdalene – but our culture – that elevates eros love to such a degree – we can’t just accept that – so people will write a book that says –  Jesus must have been romantically involved with Mary – because she was a woman.

In the Old Testament – David was good friends with Jonathon.  A number of times they affirm their vow of friendship to one another and when they are forced to part ways – they both weep and embrace and kiss one another good bye.

So what does our Eros elevated society want to do with David and Jonathon?  They must be gay.  Why?  Because we can’t seem to grasp the beauty of having a friend who is closer to us even than our own brother.

But Jesus gets it.  And he has many friends.  Jesus had a large group of people he was friends with – but he was closer with twelve – and closest with just three.

What does the Bible say about friendships?  How does the bible describe what a friend does?

The biblical elements of a good friendship. 

  1. A friend is not just good to me, but they are good for me.

1 Cor 15:33  33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Proverbs 18:24  One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,

Keller says that in our individualistic society we often like to think that I can become anything or anyone I want to become – and he scoffs at such an idea – and says that in the early days of your life you are what your family makes you –  but the rest of your life it’s your friends who shape you.

And the truth is that poorly chosen friends will make a fool out of you.

Do you have ‘friends’ who have the habit of leading you into stupidity?  It takes courage to evaluate friendships that aren’t true friendships.  But make no mistake.  The bible says…

  1. We want a friend that gets us. That lifts us up instead of tearing us down.

Proverbs 28:18,19

Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death
19 is one who deceives their neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!”

Do you have friends who seem to hurt you a lot, but they try to blame you for it?  I was only joking!    Here’s a question I’d say is a good question to ask.

After I have spent time with this person, do I feel beat down or lifted up?

It’s a difficult thing to evaluate relationships.  But there comes a time when you must see the truth.  A friend that wears you down instead of building you up, is not a good friend at all.  And if you are dating that person, you should break up with them today.

  1. We want a friend who is not afraid to say the hard thing.

Proverbs 27:17  As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.

A true friend will call you out when you need calling out.  They aren’t afraid to say to you, Can I talk to you about something?

A true friend shows tremendous grace, but a true friend also must bring truth into the equation.  If your friends are afraid to challenge you about something, then who will ever challenge you?

If you don’t want people speaking truth then you aren’t looking for friends you are looking for lackeys.  You’re looking for Sycophants.  For Yes Men.  And the deal is that the more powerful or more popular or more rich or more prestigious you are the more you will have these people trying to orbit your world – but not for your benefit but for their own.

A true friend, however, will never let you walk into ruin. They are committed to your well-being.  They rejoice when you rejoice and are sad when you are sad and are there for you through thick and thin.  And that means they are courageous enough to say a difficult thing that needs to be said.

If you say you love someone too much to say the hard thing, then you are really saying that you love yourself too much to have to go through the difficulty of sharpening your friend.

So let me ask you three questions here for you to consider when you are thinking about refreshing your friendships.

  1. Might God being asking you to expand your circle of friendships this coming year? Is God even now perhaps impressing a name on your mind?

How do you go about making a friend?

It isn’t easy.  Remember when you were kids you could throw five kids the same age in a room and they can get along – they’re kids, right?

But as we grow into adulthood we aren’t asking each other how old we are.  This is a tough time for students – as you decide your friendships based not on just being the same age, but on common interests…   We want to know, if their soul is walking in the same direction as we are.

In this sense then, a friendship isn’t so much created, as much as it is discovered. You will discover a friend when you discover a person who is on the same page as you in a common purpose.

Author C.S. Lewis, in his book, “The Four Loves” writes,

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”

When I think back in my own life, and try to trace how I made my closest friends…  it seems that it occurred by sharing a common interest.  I have two groups of guys in my life I consider friends – One group of guys I play golf with and play poker with, and one group of guys I hunt with.

In both cases – no one was looking for a friend.  It came about almost – don’t make fun of me for saying this – but almost mystically.  It was supernaturally.  It’s like God is in control of making those friendship connections.

But what both had in common was an invitation.  Come hang out.  I’ve played golf with plenty of acquaintances, and I’ve hunted with guys that are friends but not close friends.

But no one knows how those things will play out until you get around someone enough to know.  Because it’s not automatic, we have to consider our friends as gifts from God.  He is the one who sparks the friendship.

If it happens it happens.   Sometimes it takes time, but without the effort of trying to expand our friendships, then it will be even more difficult to happen.

Is it possible that God is calling you to be open to expanding your friends group?

Two things that might help in a church like ours.  First – I’d look for an opportunity to serve – to use your gifts in a way that blesses other people.  Many friendships in this room have been forged through a mutual desire to serve the poor or help women in transition.  When you find a place to serve that brings you joy, you will find other people who have that in common.

Secondly,  the bible speaks quite a bit about the benefits of hospitality.  Of actually inviting people into your world – having someone over for a meal or dessert?  You might find a kindred spirit and a friendship waiting to bloom.

I was just talking to someone last week who mentioned that when they first got to Journey they had a difficult time connecting.  But they got into a mall group and really connected with the other couples in the group – and they are thrilled to be able to say – we’ve got friends, and it’s great.

Maybe you can begin to incorporate more times of having people into your home for dinner or coffee and getting to know people at a little deeper level.

  1. Are you making room in our life for your friends?

Friends are one of those things in life that often get squeezed out.  We take for granted our friends will be there and we book ourselves up with other things.  You HAVE to make time for your spouse and for your family – but friends sometimes feel like a luxury.

They aren’t though.   But part of the idea of slowing your life down – that we talked about a couple of weeks ago – was to make room in your life for the things that really count.  And friends are one of those things.

What needs to happen in your life in order for you to invest in your friendships?  Do you need to budget time or money?  Do you need to be more proactive in getting together with a friend?

Thank God for the friends in your life.  Receive them as part of God’s love to you.  And ask yourself how YOU are doing as you think about your role as a friend in someone else’s life.

And as we come to the Lord’s table today and we celebrate communion, let’s thank God for his friendship to us….

I would ask that you consider for a moment that the only person who does all the things a friend should do, is Jesus.

He truly is the one who will never let us down.  He will never tear us down.  He is there for us in our time of need.  He really is a friend.

What a statement – on the night before Jesus was executed – he is sitting with his friends in the upper room and he says to them –

John 15:12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

As we come to the communion table we remember that we serve a God who has sung to us

You’ve got a friend in me
You got troubles, I went through some too
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you
We stick together and see it through
Cause you’ve got a friend in me