Cultivating Christian Friendship
Recently, my wife and I enjoyed an evening out with one of the first couples we connected with at Calvary Grace. Our common belief in Christ, shared in the context of good food and laughter made for a memorable time together. What struck me most about our time together was that as food was being set out on the table, our lives were being opened up before one another in a very trusting way. On the drive home, we were reminded of the importance of cultivating Christian friendship among our church family. In the busyness of life, it is easy to take such friendships for granted.
Friendship by definition is a relational quality, a bond of affection that expresses itself in trust, approval and care. Jesus said to his disciples, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Here we have friendship contrasted with being a bondservant or slave. Friendship is described here in terms of revelation, a full disclosure into all that Jesus has revealed concerning the Father. A servant is not privy to what the master is doing; but a friend is someone who has been granted access into the inner circle.
While sin stands in the way of being a friend of God, Jesus came to restore friendship with God to all who believe. Jesus did this by laying down his life, becoming a substitute, and bearing the wrath of God in the place of everyone who believes. By the death and resurrection of Jesus, believers have access to God’s heart in the form of the deepest and longest lasting friendship known to humanity. The Bible calls this lasting friendship eternal life. Friendship with God is the basis of cultivating Christian friendship with one another for now and for all eternity.
One of the ways we can cultivate Christian friendship at Calvary Grace is by cultivating a culture of grace amongst ourselves.
Have you ever been in a friendship with someone who at some point along the way shared with you all the ways you have done them wrong? After seeking their forgiveness, they duck out of the relationship because you are unable to meet their demands for justice. In the absence of grace, which is undeserved love, or unmerited favor, bitterness sets in and the friendship crumbles. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must be gracious to forgive others when they trespass against us. Before you go to bed, I challenge you to pray the Lord’s Prayer. When you pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” does your conscience tighten up? If so, you may be harboring a root of bitterness against your friend. If you are, please know that bitterness is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies. Humble yourself before the Lord and go to your friend. By way of instruction Paul writes to the Romans,
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty with one another, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:16-18).
In short, God has not counted our sins against us. Neither should we count and recount the sins of others against us. Let us remember the commandment of our Lord Jesus who said to his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).
Let us strive to imitate this kind of gracious love in cultivating Christian friendship together, Amen.