Twos and Threes – Part 2 – You Keep on Using That Word…

Between friendship and living like the Lone Ranger, I’m pretty sure friendship is the preferred mode of existence.

Everybody wants friends, and most people have friends. TV commercials are populated with friends doing things together—driving cars through the desert, having picnics, bikin’ on trails, out on the town, pitchin’ horseshoes, playin’ softball, watching sports on TV, and doing innumerable other things together. They all look so happy, as if they genuinely like one another. They indeed seem to fit the description of friends that most of us carry in our minds.

On the other hand, our society demonstrates little of this kind of friendship. The warp and woof of our society is not friendship, but competition, distrust, resentment, anger, advantage-seeking, agenda-pushing, and aloof indifference. The divisions that rend our society are deeper and wider than the Mariana Trench. We’re not very charitable toward those who differ from us. We have a hair-trigger locked on canceling anyone who disagrees with us. We attack one another’s views, cast aspersions on others’ character, and mock those who are not members of our “tribe”. Kids bully one another at school and online. Marriages break up all over the place. Business partners spat and split.

In short, evidence of a pervasive mood of friendship is lacking in our society.

Yet we continue talking about and promoting the idea of friendship. We keep on using that word but, as the Spaniard said to the Sicilian in the classic film, The Princess Bride, I’m not sure we know what it means. Is “people having fun with people they like and who like them” an adequate definition of friendship?

But where shall we look to recover a reliable standard for friendship? How can two or three of us achieve lasting friendship unless we agree together on what we mean by this?

We can turn to an old hymn for some guidance:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!

Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.

You will recognize these excerpts from the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, composed by Joseph M. Scriven in 1855.

Jesus is the Friend Who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18.24). The book of Proverbs tells us that friends love us no matter what (Prov. 17.17). To be without a friend is to be impoverished (Prov. 19.4). Friends are so faithful to us, so committed to our wellbeing that they will confront us, if need be, about failings and shortcomings (Prov. 27.6). Friends bring delight as they counsel us in the ways of the Lord (Prov. 27.9). True friends command our loyalty (Prov. 27.10) and they help one another grow sharp and radiant as polished iron (Prov. 27.17). Friends stick with us like brothers, as if we were of the same blood.

And yet Jesus sticks closer than that. Jesus explained that true friends enter into one another’s sorrows (Matt. 9.15). They rejoice to share our joy in Jesus (Mk. 5.19). Friends, according to Jesus, are always reminding one another that they are sons of the living God, Who above all is to be feared (Lk. 12.4).

But Jesus warns us as well that friends can fail us, that, when push comes to shove over matters of believing and obeying Jesus, friends might well walk away or turn their back (Lk. 21.9).

We need friends who are bound up with us in that Friend Who sticks closer than a brother. He is the Friend Who loves us so much that He died for our sins (Jn. 15.13). We are so much His friends that He urges us on in knowing and obeying His Word (Jn. 15.14). So deeply bound to us is Jesus as our Friend that He lets us in on all His secrets and enlists us, by giving us His Spirit, in His great divine conspiracy (Dallas Willard) to establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

But friends don’t just happen. If we want friends, close associates and soul friends of twos and threes to journey with us in our mission, we’re going to have to work at it.

Today, reflect on those whom you count as friends. How good a friend are you to them? How much of what the Proverbs and Jesus teach is active and flourishing in your friendships? And what can you do today to make your friendships “stickier” in Jesus?

  • Become A Student

  • Become A Leader

  • Become A Mentor