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Building Blocks of Community V: The Sweetness of a Friend

The most important thing to remember about Christian community is that it is founded on and made after the image of the one God who exists as a Trinity of persons. Because of this, Christian community will find expression in both unity and diversity, in the one, and the many. There will be times when the whole church meets together, there will be times when one or two households meet together, and there will be times when one or two individuals meet together, and each of these kinds of meetings contribute to the health of the community in different ways. The Bible speaks of this one-to-one or one-to-two fellowship as friendship.

Friendship refers to a close personal relationship between several people based on mutual affection. In the terms of today’s text, a friend is someone with whom you share earnest counsel, that is, deep fellowship around the things that matter most. Friendship, then, moves along the same lines as community, but on a smaller scale: bodily presence meeting together sharing earnest counsel. And so when God calls on us to spur one another on to love and good deeds, most effective way that that happens is along the lines of friendship.

This is because the thing that distinguishes a true friend from a mere acquaintance or a companion is the earnest counsel that you share with a friend. You don’t discuss the most intimate and important matters of your life with very many people. But the people who share godly wisdom with you concerning issues such as who you should marry, where you should go to school, what church you should go to, what to do when you and your wife aren’t getting along, or when one of your children falls into serious sin, these people are your friends. For the good of your soul, you need friends like this. The central point of Proverbs 27:9 relates to the value of a friend: the value of a friend comes in the godly wisdom that they speak into your life.

But there are two mistakes that we tend to make surrounding friendship: either we don’t really believe that friendship is all that sweet, or that earnest counsel is all that important, and we let our friendships drift away, and don’t work hard to maintain them, or we locate the sweetness of a friend in the good times we have together, rather than their good counsel to us, and so we confuse having friends with having fun with other people.

In light of these mistakes, the lesson from today’s passage is this: friendship is sweet and valuable, and it is about far more than fun. Spending time with a true friend offers the sweetness of encouragement, of strengthened hands, of edified hearts, of a joy-filled evening spent in meaningful conversation. A good friend has the ability to refresh your soul, to lift you up, and to spur you on to love and good works. Friends speak life-saving, soul-preserving wisdom to you. So here is the exhortation: pursue friendships like you believe what God is saying. Sacrifice many otherwise good things for the sake of maintaining friendships, and use the time spent with friends to pursue wisdom. Friendship’s unique contribution to the life of the community is that friendship is the normal pathway for heartfelt counsel to be shared, counsel that binds us closer together as we follow our Savior and friend Jesus Christ.

Posted on Wednesday, September 04, 2013 by CJ Bowen