Monday, 8 September 2014
The Practice of Gospel Friendship
How do we do this–make friends for the gospel? Where do we start?
I mean, it can feel so awkward. Do we structure it like some kind of junior high ballroom dancing class? Or do we just let it happen spontaneously?
There are three “how to’s” I’d like to give you, but first I want to remind us that friendship is always a gift from God. He is the initiator in all of this. First he gives us the gift of his friendship in Christ. Then he works through our efforts to give us new friends–friends who are already in Christ, and friends Christ is seeking through you.
You might put it this way:
God gives us friends as we invest our lives to seek and cultivate them.
Keeping his part in mind, what is our part? Here are the 3 how to’s:
- The Role of Structures
- The Prayer to See
- The Call to Sow
Structures. Seeing. Sowing.
The Role of Structures
God’s work of creation is our paradigm here. Before God created anything “the earth was without form and void” (Gen. 1:2). God began by creating structures–land, sea, sky–and then filling them with life. Form came first, so life could come next.
So it is with friendship. Structures are the containers where life can develop. Friendship usually happens when we’re getting together to do something else, not when we’re trying to be friends.
When we participate in some of the structures in our church or neighborhood–small groups, ministry projects, PTA, Little League–we position ourselves for friendship. A friendship may spring up and begin to grow in that “container,” but over time spill out and become transplanted into other areas of your life.
Structures play an important role, but the goal is life.
The Prayer to See
God brings lots of people into our lives. Stop and think a minute. Who do you know now that you didn’t know a year ago?
Out of all these, whom should I pursue? I’m free to choose. Really. Jesus chose the 12, then the 3. Why? We don’t know. He chose Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Why? Because. He chose you, me. Why? God knows.
But we do know he prayed before he chose the 12. Prayer is where we ask God to open our eyes. To see as he sees. To notice what he’s doing. To help us choose one new friend from the many. Perhaps:
- someone who needs a friend
- someone who is already acting like a friend
- someone older or younger who feels like an equal
- someone who shares my interests or struggles
- someone outside of Christ who “gets me”
Friendship is more than a project, it is a person. God wants to help us see like he sees–people to love.
The Call to Sow
Sowing–or investing–in gospel friendship is costly, but worth it. It’s costly because all love is costly. Jesus calls us to sow this kind of love with our eyes wide open.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” John 15:13
He has loved us this way, and now he will enable us to love each other this way.
If you’re like me, you can’t imagine what horrific circumstances might lead to “laying down my life.” Will I rescue them from a terrorist attack? Will I throw myself in front of a bus for them?
Chances are it will look more ordinary. To invest in friendship we need to lay down our schedule. Our endless distraction with social medial. Our discomfort with confrontation and hard topics.
We need to lay down our small agenda for his broad, life-giving gospel agenda. We do this when we invest:
- our time
- our talk
- our trouble
Time. Simply spending time together doing ordinary stuff–walks, chores, activities, outings, meals–allows topics of conversation to come up naturally. Practical questions surface, but also the deeper struggles. Time is our most precious commodity, which makes it the greatest gift we can offer to another person.
Talk. Make time for conversation–face to face, heart to heart. Get to know your friend as an image bearer–her personality, gifts, strengths, likes, dislikes. Get to know your friend in Christ: her conversion story, struggles, joys, hopes, fears.
Trouble. Our conversation must move beyond politeness. Potential friends are polite. Real friends talk about the hard stuff. We are all more likely to share our real sins and struggles with a friend, how much better a gospel friend? Sometimes being a real friend means pursuing her when she’d rather hide. This is costly friendship. Jesus will help you.
Grace is at the center of gospel friendship, because Jesus is at the center.
As we invest, sow, and cultivate…he gives us friends for their sake and for ours.
Question: What is the most costly of the three–time, talk, trouble–for you? Why?
Next week: Becoming More Gospel Fluent