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FIRST-PERSON: You gotta have friends


“Friendship seems as necessary an element of a comfortable existence in this world as fire or water, or even air itself,” Charles Spurgeon wrote. “A man may drag along a miserable existence in proud solitary dignity, but his life is scarce life, it is nothing but an existence, the tree of life being stripped of the leaves of hope and the fruits of joy. He who would be happy here must have friends; and he who would be happy hereafter, must, above all things, find a friend in the world to come, in the person of God, the Father of his people.”

In the camaraderie of brothers and sisters I served alongside after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I learned the importance of not living in isolation. This lesson was reiterated recently as I have walked with family and friends through the trauma of the accident in Phoenix that resulted in the loss of life of one and severely injured three others from Ten Mile Baptist Church.

It is dangerous and unwise to live life disconnected from others. Solomon warned, “One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound wisdom” (Proverbs 18:1)

God spoke in Genesis 2:16, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” This is the only item in the creation account called “not good.” Adam had perfect fellowship with God in the Garden, but the Lord saw fit that man needed the companionship of others.

Friendship is perfectly demonstrated in the Trinity by the relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. As image bearers, we have an innate desire for fellowship, as it reflects our Creator.

In Scripture, we see a variety of friendships: Jesus with Peter, James and John the Beloved; David and Jonathan who exhibited brotherly love to one another; Paul and Timothy in a mentoring kind of friendship; in-laws Naomi and Ruth. Common to them all is affirmation. It’s an important part of relationships, and of the culture of ministry.

In his book, “Made for Friendship,” pastor Drew Hunter offers practical steps regarding affirmation. Guys are especially good at giving a jab in the side with a sarcastic comment, but we don’t always know how that may actually be tearing the other person down. As a counselor, I often hear clients say, “I’ve heard those things all my life, and now I believe them.”

But Scripture says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 ESV).

Hunter wrote, “Whenever the thought crosses your mind to affirm something about someone, do it, and do it without hesitation.”

Maybe it doesn’t feel normal to look your friend in the eye and say you admire him or her. For guys that can be particularly hard when sarcasm has been the most common form of expression. Most guys who come to my office were taught as boys to suppress their emotions. Because of this, emotions and affirmation can be uncomfortable. That discomfort often is expressed in the form of sarcasm. They do not know how to handle or express true affection.

David slayed Goliath as well as the lion and the bear, but he also played the harp and wrote poetry in the form of psalms. If we read a few psalms, we will hear the depth of emotion expressed in the words of David.

With practice, kind words and affirmation will begin to feel normal.

“If you desire true friendship, it is not because you are weak; it is because you’re not a rock,” Hunter wrote. “You are made in the image of the God of exuberant love. You are most like God, and you are most truly human when you want friendship. Your unmet longings for friendship are not evidence of a deficiency; they are signs of your dignity. God made you for friendship.”

Those in ministry especially need friends who will love them because of who they are, not just because they are a leader in their church. This kind of culture change starts from the top. If we are the example of a good, faithful friend, we are more likely to find good, faithful friends.

A good friend handed me a copy of Made for Friendship a year ago and asked me to put its principles into practice. I’m working on it. And I’m discovering in biblical friendship, we find encouragement and the strength to persevere.

Jared Pryer is a counselor in Mt. Vernon, Illinois and teaches adults and youth at Ten Mile Baptist Church in McLeansboro.

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  • Jared Pryer