Most readers are probably familiar with the television sitcom Friends, which ran from 1994-2004. The series revolved around a group of friends in Manhattan who spent considerable time at the “Central Perk” coffee house; Friends consistently rated in the top ten in the primetime ratings. Can you guess why? Friendships strike a chord that runs deep within every human being, because God made us for relationship—both with Himself and with others. In fact, the first time God declared that something was “not good” was when man was alone.
The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
God has hard-wired us for relationship. We were made for community, and that is why shows like Friends and the still-syndicated Cheers, which are built upon the theme of community and friendship, are among the highest ranking of all time.
Rev. Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) was asked the secret of his productive life; he referred to scholar and educator F. D. Maurice and said simply, “I had a friend.” Many Americans still prize the idea of “rugged individualism,” and many American Christians are missing out on one of God’s great gifts to His people: close friends in the family of faith.
I rejoice in the great gift of friendship that God has given to me, which begins with my beloved wife, Kim, but doesn’t end there. God has also given Clark, who has been a faithful and fabulous mentor for more than a decade, and a several other men who have walked alongside me for years. The words you read in every “Grace for the Race” blog are edited by my best friend, Dan, who, like the rising tide, lifts all boats in his vicinity—including me!
I long ago lost track of how many people have told me they don’t need the church or the people of God. They insist that they “just need Jesus.” OK, I’ll grant that at the deepest level of understanding, it is true to say Christ is our most important need. But Jesus has called us out of isolation and placed us within His body to live and work and pray with other members of His church. Another man who has played a huge role in my life as a pastor is my beloved friend, Tullian Tchividjian. Tullian frequently quotes the late Frank Colquhoun, who wrote that one of the Gospel’s “most thrilling notes” is that “when Christ saves a man he not only saves him from his sin, he saves him from his solitude.”
If God thought it was good for man to be alone He would have stopped after forming Adam and simply kept him in a vertical relationship with Himself. But God didn’t do that; He created Eve out of Adam so that they could begin to expand their vertical relationship with God into a horizontal relationship with each other. And that is His perfect plan for us, as well!
Steve Brown tells a story about a friend of his who got into a terrible dispute with another friend over a $3 million contract. It happened a long time ago, Steve says, but its effects still linger. He said his friend told him recently, “I got a bad deal. I would give up the money to have my friend back.”
How many reading this right now does that story resonate with? I know I cannot be alone. Perhaps it was nothing like a $3 million deal, but something came between you and a friend, or even a family member. We all have pasts littered with broken friendships and damaged relationships; this happens for one simple reason: we are broken and damaged people.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)
So . . . what kind of friend have you been to those around you? How would those closest to you answer this question? Do you have relationships in your life that could stand for a little upkeep? Maybe they are not broken or even badly damaged . . . but they could use a little extra TLC? The power of the Gospel frees us to go to work on all of our relationships. It frees us to forgive everyone because we have been forgiven. It frees us to try to reconcile with anyone, regardless of the outcome.
All of us will do well to remember the saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” The silver and gold we have been given in friendship is worth more than all the silver and gold coins this world has ever seen. We can stand to lose a business deal. We can stand to lose some money. We can stand to lose some of our pride. But we simply should not stand to lose a single friend.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!