Why are friendships in the church disappearing? That was the opening question at our church’s annual men’s retreat this past weekend with Jonathan Holmes, as he taught on Forging Friendships for Life. With Jonathan’s permission, I will pass on to you some of my personal takeaways from the excellent teaching we received. I hope it will bless you too.
A quote from Tod Bolsinger set the stage: “More than any before us, an American today believes ‘I must write the script of my own life.’ The thought that such a script must be subordinated to the grand narrative of the Bible is a foreign one. Still more alarming is the idea that this surrender of our personal story to God’s story must be mediated by a community of fallen people we frankly don’t want getting in our way and meddling with our own hopes and dreams.”
Why Are Christian, Male Friendships Disappearing?
Jonathan gave us four observations about the decline of male friendships in the church.
1. We don’t understand the purpose of friendship, the original design and intention for friendship. We are relational beings since we are made in the image of the relational God. By avoiding friendship we distort the image of God in our life. Without iron-sharpening-iron relationships with brothers in Christ we will not mature in the faith and be fruitful.
2. We don’t understand that sin has affected our ability to build friendships. Like sin caused Adam and Eve to attempt to hide from God, sin causes us to hide from others.
- Sin creates a spiritual and spatial distance from God.
- Sin taints our motivations for pursuing friendship.
- Sin isolates us from others and creates an environment where loneliness flourishes. It creates an environment where the “one-anothers” cannot function.
- Sin communicates an incorrect portrait of the gospel to the unsaved world.
3. We try to build friendships around common interests, common upbringings, sexuality, etc. This is how the world builds friendships, but true, biblical friendships are rooted in our mutual relationship to Christ.
4. We don’t understand that friendship with God is the foundation for our friendships with others. If we do not know God through personal repentant faith in Jesus Christ then we are still His enemies. We must become his friends through faith in Christ as our Mediator. Attempts to build a biblical friendship with a man who is not born again, not truly a brother in Christ, will remain shallow or fail.
Thus, there is a paradox in the church: We want friendship, but we really don’t want to do the hard work necessary to build real friendship.
Jesus, the true Friend.
It is only possible to make biblical friendships if we have first been befriended by God. Think about this from Romans 5:7-11; John 15:12-15; James 2:23. If you are not in right relationship with God then all your attempts at friendship will crumble. You first need a Savior.
Tomorrow, we will look at the marks of biblical friendship.
[NOTE: Jonathan’s work on biblical friendship is now published in the book The Company We Keep.]