by Christine Hoover
God has invited us into the fellowship of Christ, which is what we call the church. He has given us to one another in the larger church, yet within the larger we will most often interact with the smaller. Like Jesus with James, Peter, and John, this is the category of friendship—those within the closest concentric circle, those with access and proximity to us and us to them.
Although God is our only perfect Friend, we’re invited into a life filled with people, so it’s helpful to ask ourselves: What is the goal of friendship? How will we know when we’ve arrived at the proper destination of biblical friendship?
Our destination or goal is not to arrive at a static, linear version of friendship where we get all of our relationships lined up just so and keep them that way for a lifetime. No, the goal of friendship is to secure ourselves to the sure, steadfast anchor of Christ and, while holding to that anchor, give and receive the gift of friendship as we have opportunity. The goal is to enjoy God together with others and, as we move through life, to sharpen and allow ourselves to be sharpened by friends. We imitate Jesus with one another, willing to face the stark realities and consequences of sin, all the while persevering in our efforts to offer love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, comfort, and care to one another. In doing so, we display to one another and the world how God loves and, through this, bring him glory. This is our destination, the point on the map we move toward: bringing God glory. A gift of grace, both to give and to receive. This is God’s dream for us.
Therefore, we must not give up on dreams of friendship, because it’s evident that friendship is a good and godly desire, even an imperative, yet we must be careful that our dreams align with God’s. The sense of struggle we feel in relationships, the sense of physical and emotional separation we experience—we must recognize these feelings as a longing for the perfection and beauty of heaven. It’s a longing for Christ and the final redemption he offers, and it’s a longing to live and move and breathe as he does toward us. This is a beautiful desire, not something we should feel ashamed to have. But we must bring this desire to God and learn to trust and receive from him. We must, like with any good gift, hold this desire in its proper place and appreciate what he has given us right now, even if what he’s given is not necessarily what we envision.
A good, biblical friendship actually brings us to that place of longing, because it navigates us back around to God. It begins with God because all truth begins with him and because friendship was his idea in the first place; it ends with God because biblical friendship points us back to him and stirs our anticipation of unmarred, heavenly relationships with our Father and with others. Enjoying the gift of friendship in the midst of bumpy and broken is what makes it distinctly Christian, however, and also distinctly and dazzlingly beautiful.
Christine Hoover, Messy Beautiful Friendship, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2016. Used by permission.
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