News Articles

Value of friendship highlighted via pastors’ closeness, faith

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Christians today would do well to learn about the value of friendships from their forebears, Michael Haykin told students during an Oct. 2 chapel address at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.
Haykin, professor of church history at Heritage Baptist College and Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, said Christians in prior centuries placed a high value on the type of friendship described in John 15:13-15. Although this truth has been largely ignored in the 20th century, Haykin said, such friendships can be a means of receiving the grace of God to preserve and sustain believers in their Christian walk.
To illustrate such a friendship, Haykin described in detail the friendship between the Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller and Baptist pastor John Ryland Jr. Haykin said the two Englishmen met in 1778 and were quickly drawn together by several factors, including their similar theological viewpoints and a love for the writings of Jonathan Edwards. Their relationship proved to be a long-lasting and fruitful one, Haykin said.
“Their friendship was to be unbroken for 37 years until death broke it in 1815,” Haykin said. He explained that after Fuller’s death, Ryland described his friendship with Fuller as having never met with one minute’s interruption due to an unkind word or thought. Ryland believed the wound caused by Fuller’s death would never be healed in this life. Such depth in Fuller and Ryland’s friendship, Haykin said, could be attributed to their willingness to pay the cost of friendship, their unconditional commitment to each other and the one essential friendship they maintained with Christ.
Haykin noted Ryland and Fuller were willing to pay the cost to maintain their friendship, with rarely more than two weeks passing without a letter of correspondence between the two men, even though during the later part of their lives they lived more than two day’s journey apart from each other.
“Part of the cost of friendship is that one has to maintain it,” Haykin said. “Friendship is one of the most fragile things in our lives. It is so easy to let it go.”
The friendship of Fuller and Ryland was also based on a commitment to the whole person, Haykin said. This was revealed in their acceptance of each other despite radically differing theological viewpoints.
Haykin said Fuller believed in communion and membership which were closed, that is, only for baptized believers. Ryland, on the other hand, practiced open communion and membership despite his affirmation of believer’s baptism. Haykin quoted Ryland, who said he repeatedly expressed himself “freely and strongly” to Fuller on this issue, “yet without giving offense.” “Friends are not Siamese twins, they’re not clones,” Haykin said. “They need to give one another room to disagree.”
The strongest basis of Ryland’s friendship with Fuller, however, was what Haykin called “one essential friendship.” Haykin recounted when Fuller lay dying, he wrote to Ryland, “We have enjoyed much together, which I hope is an earnest of something greater to come.” Haykin said Fuller had realized for Christians, “friendship is an eternal thing, and what we look for in the kingdom to come is a deepening of the friendships we have had here in this world.”
However, the dying Fuller refused to send for Ryland, whose friendship he valued so much. Haykin noted this was because, in light of impending death, Fuller realized there was only one friendship he needed — a friendship with the Triune God.
In light of this, Haykin left students with a parting question. “Does Almighty God — the maker of heaven and earth, the one who holds in his hands the breath of all creatures — does he count you as his friend?”

    About the Author

  • Clinton Wolf