To love and be loved
Under the article titled ‘Getting Along Nicely’ we looked at relating to others and, as we said in that aticle, we can’t make it through life without dealing with people. They are everywhere.
Even when we think we’ve got rid of them the phone goes.
People are in our homes, at school,
and at our work. They are at church and where we enjoy our leisure.
Like it or not, we need people because life is based on relationships. In fact we were created for relationships, a relationship with God and relationships with our fellow humans.
More to the point, we were created to
love and be loved, and someone who misses out on one or both of these is the poorer for it, indeed they live a distorted shadow of what life is meant to be.
Part of God's Plan
Being able to relate to other people is important in every walk of life, but it is also important that some relationships develop into friendships and even life-long partnerships.
Do we see that the people we meet are part of God's plan for our lives; that we can leave a deposit of heaven with them?
Each one of us is called of God to function as a Christian in the environments we find ourselves in. It is highly important therefore that we seek to communicate effectively with each person we meet, though, at the same time, it is also important we understand the nature of that relationship so our approach and conversation is relevant and appropriate.
It helps, therefore, to see that there are basically four levels of friendship. These categories are to help us rightly relate to those we call our friends so that, on the one hand, we don’t tell someone we’ve just met our ‘whole life story’ – warts and all. And, on the other hand, if we have a long-standing friend, someone we spend a lot of time with, we will want them to feel that we value our commitment to each other enough to trust them with our ‘whole life story’ – warts and all!
So let’s look at these four levels of friendship and see something of the way we relate to the people we meet, and appropriate areas of conversation.
This is the casual contact we have with people we meet and have contact with, but without involving any deep ongoing relationship.
For instance, there are people we meet from time to time in the street or at a club. It could be people we know at school or at work.
They’re people we recognise in the crowd and say ‘hello’ to.
Conversation can be ‘cliché talk’,
asking general questions like ‘how are you?’, ‘how’s your mum?’, but will involve little by way of sharing anything personal.
Be alert to each new person around you. Develop a cheerful countenance.
It may be appropriate to know and greet them by their name. And remember, God has an interest in this person.
A note about names
Some people are amazing when it comes to remembering people’s names, but not everyone can, so here are some questions:
How do you remember a person’s name when you’ve forgotten it as soon as they tell you?
Does everyone from the rest of the world immediately recognise names like John or Mary, and how important is it for us to take the trouble to get their names right?
Is it important that you spell a person’s name right, and is it important you pronounce it right?
Does it matter when someone always
spells your name wrong or calls you ‘Marline’ instead of ‘Merlin’?
Does it matter if someone you’ve known
for years still sends your birthday card to the wrong address?
Friendships develop when we share with
one or more people a mutual interest or concern. It could be an interest in sport or music, hobbies, work, or school.
Conversation can be around the mutual points
of interest, expressing and evaluating ideas, and watching for reactions to our ideas. We’re part of a group and we will want to be accepted. We should feel free to ask specific, but appropriate questions, and show interest and concern in the sharing of problems, whether it’s to do with homework, mending a fuse, or whatever.
In building the friendship be honest and
ready to acknowledge faults, and reflect genuine interest in others and develop trustworthiness in the context of the mutual interest.
Talk with God about your friend.
3: Close Friendship or Companionship
Companionship is when we share with one or more people a deep commitment to each other, and develop a close relationship.
Friendship at this level can involve strong feelings and emotion as there is a sharing based on mutual objectives. This is particularly true when the friendship develops into marriage or life-long friendship. There can be a sharing around mutual interests but it’s a friendship that goes beyond such things.
Conversation can be round mutual interests but there will also be a sharing of needs and how we feel about things.
We will be prepared to be vulnerable
in the context of mutual trust and respect for each other.
There will be a freedom to suggest mutual projects and aims, like a holiday together.
In this respect we might discover and
discuss specific goals and assume a personal responsibility to achieve these ends.
There will also be a greater responsibility to discern and resolve conflicts which hinder these goals and spoil the relationship.
The friendship could also involve fellowship, praying and reading the scriptures together.
Talk with God about your friend's needs.
This level of friendship, however, is as far as you can go with a non-Christian.
4. Fellowship (Koinonia)
This is the unique relationship which exists between Christians when they relate to each other in the body of Christ. Within this context, however, there can be specific friendships where we are drawn together in a specially close communion based on the commitment to develop each other's character as Christians through mutual care and accountability.
Conversation will be marked by openness and honesty, sharing our doubts and fears, joys and sorrows, with others in the security of Christian fellowship, and before God. God will minister to us and through us to each other. There is the blessing of giving as well as receiving and the opportunity to search the Scriptures together and pray together.
Be loyal, faithful,
and always available when needed.
I doubt if we consciously go through each day putting each person we meet into these different categories, but recognising these four levels will help to protect us from investing our lives into the wrong people or denying the right people the trust and vulnerability the relationship deserves.
Friendship can be defined as "a divine encounter". As Paul says… let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Colossians 4:6).
If we recognize every contact as such,
and realize that every time we meet someone we are sharing part of God's purposes, we are able to begin and continue more meaningful friendship with people.
What does the Bible say about Friendship?
1: Best Friend
Jesus is the greatest friend we can ever have
so share him with your friends.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command (John 15:13-14).
2: Be Loyal
Be a loyal friend who sticks by your friends.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
3: No PartialityDon’t be partial when choosing your friends.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbour as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers (James 2:8-9).
4: Be a WitnessDon’t be ashamed of Jesus but let the Light of Jesus shine through you.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 1:16).
5: Be Reliable
Stick by your friends when they are in difficulties. That’s what friends are for.
May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains (2Timothy 1:16).
But don’t be party to
anything they do that’s wrong.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the
6: Be CarefulDon’t get pushed along with the crowd.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
7: Don't DominateDon’t dominate your friends through being too assertive, wanting your own way.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
8: Be OpenBe open and forgiving with your friends.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1John 1:7).
9: No GhettosBe ready to invite others into your circle of friends.
"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me" (John 5:7).
10: Be GenerousBe ready to make friends with the lonely and unloved.
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:36-37).
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