Friendship in the Bible (2)
With thanks to Cooper P. Abrams III for most points
an interesting description of the church: “The healing church puts
connecting at the center of their purpose: connecting with God through
daily worship, connecting with unbelievers through daily service, and
connecting with each other through daily interactions for wholeness.
Such connecting will be built on a threefold foundation: on a
caring leadership who is committed to passing along hope through pouring
themselves into other members, on a spiritual direction which is
prompted by following the Holy Spirit and by members being present in
each other’s lives at critical moments, and on a friendship where
members are committed to caring enough that evil plans of the flesh will
be disrupted while a vision remains strong of the potential for good
that will eventually occur in the same member’s life (Crabb).
This description says that friendship is one of the three
foundational elements in a healthy congregation.
This morning, let’s continue our series on friendship and
consider four more traits of friends based on examples that we find in
the Bible: friends share in one another’s interest, like Aquila did with
Paul; friends live through experiences together, like John did with
Jesus; friends bring out one another’s best, like Paul did with
Philemon; friends build up each other's faith, like Jesus did with
Before we look at each of these traits a little more closely, let’s
realize something about them.
They are not easy to put into practice because each trait demands
a deeper level of time, commitment, and trust.
Are we really ready to give them a try?
It's like a story about two preachers who were having lunch
together—one was Caucasian and the other was Hispanic.
The Caucasian preacher began crying and confessed to the Hispanic
preacher that he had just attended a meeting of white church leaders
where they had made fun of preachers who had different ethnic
backgrounds. He said that
he didn't like this, but he really didn't take much of a stand against
their sinful behavior, and his conscience had been hurting him all
night. “How can I get over
this? How can we be
friends?” he asked. The
Hispanic minister was stunned and remained silent for a moment.
Then he asked, “Do you like soccer?”
Now the other preacher was surprised, but nodded that he did.
So the Hispanic preacher said, “I do too.
I love a good game, and I love to cook out.
So here's what we need to do: I need to get to know you, and you
need to get to know me. Why
don't you come over to my house?
Bring your wife so that she can meet my wife, and we'll just sit
and talk and get to know each other.
I'll grill some burgers.
Let's start there.”
The other preacher asked, “You want me to come to your house?”
“Yes,” said the other, “if you wanted me to sit here and clear
your conscience for your sinful behavior, I can't do that.
Friendship is not cheap.
It takes time and commitment.”
Then the Hispanic preacher gave him his phone number and told him
to let him know when he would be coming by.
Sadly, the story ends here because the other preacher never
accepted his fellow Christian's invitation (Larson-Elshof).
The Hispanic preacher was right—friendships are not cheap, and
they do take time, commitment, and trust.
These are traits that may push us out of our comfort zones too.
The first trait is that friends share in one another's interests.
Acts 18:1-3 tells us: “After these things, Paul departed from
Athens and went to Corinth.
And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had
recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius [who
was the emperor] had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he
came to them. So, because
he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by
occupation, they were tentmakers.”
Here we see that the apostle Paul became friends with Aquila and
his wife because they had three things in common: they were Christian
Jews; they were tentmakers; they were builders of the church.
I wonder what they must have talked about as they made tents
together; I'll bet it was more than just the weather, politics, and
taxes. Paul and this couple
grew to be close friends.
They traveled together to Ephesus, according to Acts 18:18-19.
This generous couple always had the welfare of the church
uppermost in their minds.
Notice what Paul says about them in Romans 16:3-4: “Greet Priscilla
and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own
necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the
churches of the Gentiles.
Likewise greet the church that is in their house.”
We see here that this couple, at some point, had actually risked
their lives for Paul's welfare!
Now that's a close friendship, and it all began because they all
had common interests that they shared together.
Now let's make an application.
Someone has noted that friendship is more than talk, but it is
born in talk (Greenfield).
Usually, when we want friends, we begin by trying to find some common
interests. You explain your
interests and then ask others about theirs.
Remember the story we told just a few minutes ago?
Where did the Hispanic preacher start in establishing a
friendship? He began with a
simple question, “Do you like soccer?”
You see, he was looking for a common interest.
Now do we do that when we talk with our visitors?
Can we get beyond the usually talk about the weather, sports, and
politics to really get to discover what interests we might have in
common? Such interests can
cover lots of categories like tastes, attractions, concerns,
involvements, commitments, and values.
Tastes are just likes and preferences.
Attractions would include areas like sports, music, plays, TV
programs, movies, and vacations spots.
Concerns would be issues in the political, economic, educational,
and religious arenas.
Involvements could include the meetings we attend, the organizations we
join, the risks we like to take, and the donations we make to help
groups. Commitments include
what we are willing to pay for, to go out of our way for, and to make
sacrifices for. Values are
the ideals we greatly prize, the goals we pursue, and the objectives we
wish to accomplish (Ibid.).
Here are three things that we might do when talking with visitors.
First of all, share you profile.
For example, I could say something like, “I like jogging,
attending Rotary Club, finding open source educational software,
teaching others, helping my family, and supporting poor children through
Christian Relief Fund. Now,
what are your interests?”
You see, you can be thinking of things to say about yourself that share
your tastes, attractions, concerns, involvements, commitments, and
values. Be a good listener
when they reply back.
Secondly, another good question that we can ask a visitor is this, “Is
there anything that I can be praying for in your life?”
You see, when something is mentioned by a visitor, then it
automatically becomes a common interest.
But don't ask this question unless you will sincerely pray about
the matter. Thirdly, we
could also do as the Hispanic preacher and invite a visitor to come to
our home to share a meal and to get to know one another's interests in
that way. Extending
hospitality is a great way to show that you are serious about
friendship! Friendship is
more than talk, but it is born in talk.
Friends share in one another's interests.
Next, we see that friends live through experiences together, like John
did with Jesus. Luke
19:37ff tells us that Jesus' disciples began praising God with a loud
voice as Jesus was approaching Jerusalem: “Blessed is the King who comes
in the name of the Lord!”
John was probably among these, and perhaps even hopeful that Jesus would
reveal His new kingdom.
John even tells us in his gospel at 12:17-19 that those who had
witnessed Jesus' miracle of bringing his friend Lazarus to life again
also joined in the crowd entering Jerusalem!
But John's jubilation was short-lived wasn't it?
The triumphal entry took place on Sunday, but by Friday, Jesus
had been arrested, tried, condemned, and nailed to a Roman cross for
execution. John 19:25-27
reports something very amazing: “Now there stood by the cross of
Jesus His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and
Mary Magdalene.” You see,
the apostles had abandoned Jesus, but His female followers were there.
The next verse states: “When Jesus saw His mother and the
disciples whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, 'Woman,
behold your son!' Then He
said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!'
And from that hour, that disciple took her to his own home.”
Of course, we know that the
disciple whom Jesus loved was John himself.
When all the other apostles had abandoned Him, John stood with
the women at the foot of the cross until His Best Friend breathed His
last. But we also remember
that John was one of the first to run to the tomb as well when it was
reported being empty!
Friends live through experiences together, like John did with Jesus.
Now, we are going even deeper into friendship because time, presence,
and risk are all involved when we determine to live through our friends
experiences with them. You
know Jesus' presence on earth was not to travel, give speeches, or
confront the religious leaders.
He was on earth to minister to people.
Anytime a person wanted His attention, he or she got it.
His life seems so unplanned, yet Christ was totally in control.
You see, His schedule actually was never interrupted [because]
people WERE His program” (Conway)!
“Action is talk with shoes on it ... [and] closeness in personal
relationships requires togetherness if any significant depth is to be
togetherness is more than merely being together, in proximity, under the
same roof or in the same car.
It means sharing a common activity. ... Through participation in
a mutual endeavor, we reveal a deeper part of ourselves to each other.
... Deepening relationships need active togetherness. ... In engaging in
some common activity, we are going beyond conversation to experience our
common [interests]” (Greenfield).
One of the greatest things about being in a part of a church is
that we can play together (like some of our ladies did last Thursday and
some men did yesterday), and we can pay together (to fund other good
works all over the globe), we can grow together in our faith and
maturity (you know there is a strength in a group that's almost
mystical, and we come to realize that there are some things that we just
can never do alone), and we can work together (“When people relate
together ... and accomplish something worthwhile ..., there's sort of a
psychological and spiritual adrenalin that flows through their lives.
The thrill of common achievement injects a quality of strength
that encourages [further accomplishment]”) (Greenfield)!
Someone has noted this about the early church: “Strict
isolationism and rigid individualism were utterly foreign to the New
Testament churches. The
social-interaction level was a vital part of the relationships of God's
people in those early days.
It should be no different today” (Hinkle and Woodruff).
The story is told of a man who had lost his wife during an
already painful juncture in his life.
The following morning, the phone rang, and it was Jack, just as
the caller knew it would be.
“I’m here,” Jack said, “I know you probably don’t want to see
anyone, and that’s alright.
I’ve checked into a hotel, and I’ll just sit here in case you need to do
anything. I can do whatever
you want, or I can do nothing.”
The caller knew he meant it.
Jack just waited until his friend had gathered the strength to
say that he needed him.
When Jack arrived, he brought food for the children, did a lot of
sitting and sharing the silence, and did just a little cleaning.
And the friend later added: “And he got me through some of my
darkest days” (Larson-Elshof).
Friends live through experiences together, both bad ones and good
ones, like John did with Jesus.
Next, friends bring out each other’s best like Paul did with Philemon.
You remember the story of how Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, ran
away, and Paul converted him, and Paul then begged Philemon to take him
back as a brother in one of the most tactful letters ever written.
Let’s read verses 17ff: “If then you count me as a partner,
receive him as you would me.
But if he has wronged you or owes you anything, put that on my
account. I, Paul, am
writing with my own hand. I
will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self
besides. Yes, brother, let
me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.
Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that
you will do even more than I say.”
I’ve asked you to accept him as a brother, Philemon, but I
know you’ll go beyond that and probably grant him his freedom too.
Tradition, has it, that Philemon forgave Onesimus, and Onesimus
later became an elder in the church at Ephesus.
Isn’t it amazing how Paul was able to spur Philemon on to give
And, as friends, we should be doing the same thing as well.
Do we as members here have these feelings: do we feel that we’re
being supported, do we feel that were being understood, do we feel that
we’re close, do we feel that we can confess our sins without it being
gossiped about all over town, do we feel that others believe in us, do
we feel that others here will defend us in spite of our imperfections,
do we feel that there will be concrete assistance, in times of crisis,
do we feel that there are other members who can help to restore us when
we’ve lost our confidence in running the Christian race?
Those are vital questions.
And if members aren’t feeling that here, maybe that’s why they
begin to seek out other churches where they think they can feel these
things. Are we really
trying to bring out the best in each other?
A preacher, who also has a degree in psychology, made this
observation: “Nurturing expresses itself in and through inspiration.
A nurturing person inspires you to be your very best self, to
reach for attainable and worthy goals, to carry plans to completion, and
to make dreams come true.
Inspiring people produce inspired people, and both tend to be very
healthy people both mentally and physically” (Greenfield).
Bro. Chuck Monan, the preacher at Pleasant Valley in Little Rock,
recently wrote an article in the Gospel Advocate entitled “Stopping the
Exodus” which was about young people dropping out of the church.
Here was his conclusion: “”One of my friends is a 70-year-old
college professor who interacts with more college kids than anyone I
know. He has conducted a
running, informal survey of hundreds of these kids over the past two
years asking them: “If you could change anything about the church, what
would it be?” [‘More
meaningful relationships’ is their response.]
When we start living out Christ’s call to love each other and
committing our lives to our Lord and to each other, we won’t have enough
room in our churches to hold everyone” (GA 10/25/08).
As interested and caring friends, we must bring out the best in
each other, like Paul did with Philemon.
Lastly, friends build each other’s faith, like Jesus did with Thomas.
In our reading this morning, we saw that Thomas was skeptical
about the report of the other apostles.
Hadn’t Jesus Himself warned that other false Messiahs would
arise? Whatever had
motivated Thomas’ reluctance to believe, Jesus reappeared before His
disciples and challenged Thomas to remove all doubt: “Reach your
finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here and put into
My side. Do not be
unbelieving, but believing.”
And Thomas exclaimed, ‘My Lord and my God!’”
Friends build each other’s faith, like Jesus did with Thomas.
Isn’t it amazing that even when we attend church three times a week, we
rarely develop much closeness and insight into a person’s spiritual
life. Why is that?
We’ll let’s think for a moment.
Our class times are pretty short, the furniture there does not
often invite interaction, and the class size is probably too large for
much meaningful exchange.
Our potlucks are a great time of eating, but rarely do we take the time
to do much beyond that. Our
worship services do little to promote closeness: after our opening
greeting, it’s on to the routine, with the hope that it will all get
finished on time so we can rush out the doors and further avoid each
other. I’m talking here
about a closeness where we share experiential awareness about each
others’ lives, about what’s been happening to us.
It’s about an emotional awareness as well, or how those recent
experiences have made us feel.
And it’s about a spiritual awareness, or how our relationship
with God is developing in our circumstances.
It’s also about a reciprocal awareness as well: we know each
other’s plans and we know how each other fits into those plans.
Are we really sharing on that level?
If so, it’s usually not here.
Someone has correctly observed: “Your faith in God is something
else you can care enough to give.
It’s stunning how many people in this world have never heard
another person share with them their personal relationship with God.
This is something you would naturally expect Christians to do.
However, we are so afraid these days of being ‘personal’.
knowing God personally is the most important thing in all the
world, as Christians claim, then we ought be giving this knowledge away
as often as possible” (Greenfield).
Self –disclosure can bring about forgiveness, and truth can bring
about healing, but who wants to be the first to put such actions into
practice? “[This condition
explains] why the church is so badly in need of men and women who [will]
make it their ministry to encourage others by exerting a positive
influence, by opening doors of opportunity, by helping
fellow Christians triumph over disappointments and mistakes [and
by really caring for another’s spiritual well-being.
You know, we can] nip discouragement in the bud by helping [all
members] around [us] to bloom.
[Let’s make it our] business to do all [that we] can to assist
others in fulfilling their spiritual potential” (Johnson).
Just like the Hispanic preacher said, “This all takes time and
commitment, and the courage to call a sin a sin, and the willingness to
praise when one shows signs of maturity in the faith.
As friends, let’s build up each other’s faith, just as Jesus did
We’ve examined four more traits of friends based on examples that we
find in the Bible: friends share in one another’s interests, like Aquila
did with Paul; friends live through experiences together, like John did
with Jesus; friends bring out one another’s best, like Paul did with
Philemon; friends build up each other’s faith, like Jesus did with
Thomas. These are lofty
ideals! Are we really ready
to give them a try? This
sobering poem by Edward Guest will serve as our conclusion:
“I watched them tearing a building down, a gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and a lusty yell, they
swung a beam and the side wall fell.
I asked a foreman, ‘Are these men skilled,
as the men you’d hire if you had to
He gave a laugh and said, ‘No indeed!
Just common labor is all you need.
I can easily wreck in day or two what builders have taken a year to
And I thought to myself as I went away, ‘Which of these roles have I
[Am I a wrecker who walks the town, content with the labor of
Am I criticizing others every day and dwelling on how many are
Or am I a builder working with care, measuring life by rule and
Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan and patiently [helping
best I can?’”
Jesus wants to be your friend, and has given you an invitation to eat
with Him? Will you accept