Christian Friendship

I am currently in the midst of a devotional book called Who I Am In Christ by Dr. Neil T. Anderson. It’s really helping me out a lot. I feel like I never really got “Relationships with God 101” until I picked up this book. But I should mention that there are some sites out there online that take great exception to Dr. Anderson’s work, and I’ve noticed a few odd trends in what I’ve read so far as well. What I can say so far is that I don’t think you should completely discredit him based on the inclusion in his books of some of the more occult areas of faith, but I think you should (as always) read critically.

Plugging aside, I’ve recently covered the chapter in the above-mentioned book entitled “I Am Christ’s Friend.” This chapter really touched my heart, due simply to some personal things going on in my own life right now (God truly does provide exactly what we need for us, by the way), and it also got me thinking a lot about what true friendship really is.

I don’t mean to discuss only friendship between a person and her God, or the fellowship to be found among Christians, but the friendship that predominates most of our lives: friendship between a believer and another person – anyone – regardless of faith. But like all aspects of our lives, we can learn more about how to handle relationships here in the world by understanding our heavenly relationship with the Father. The more we practice these principles of the Kingdom of God in our daily lives, the more success we will have in finding joy and peace here during our earthly days.

The following verses not only illustrate that we can receive joy through submission to the will of God, but they also provide the perfect lesson on friendship.

29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30He must become greater; I must become less.” – John 3:29-30

The context of John 3:29-30 is that John the Baptist’s followers have just approached him in a frenzy because they have heard that Jesus of Nazareth is baptizing. They are loyal to John and his ministry, and do not appreciate this newcomer’s encroaching on what they feel is John’s territory. John responds that he is unconcerned, even joyful, because he knows that now, the one in whose name he has been baptizing has arrived.

Out of context, and in our Christian lives, the verse is only a tad bit different.
Keep in mind that we are trying to learn about earthly friendship from spiritual, heavenly friendship, what is our “friendship” relationship with God? Let’s examine the verses.

Again, the verses are: 29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30He must become greater; I must become less.” – John 3:29-30

As Christians, we are called to be both “the bride” who belongs to the bridegroom (as the Church), and “the friend who attends the bridegroom.” Because so many allusions are made to the community of God as “the Church,” and because this is a study of Christian Friendship, I’m going to ignore the responsibilities of “the bride” for now, and focus more on the responsibility of the “bridegroom’s friend.”

What makes John the Baptist Jesus’s “friend” in terms of the verses above? The two do not seem to be engaging in any type of “friendship” as we know it today; they are not sharing hobbies, or discussing ideas they have in common, or even doing the things Christian men and women tend to do in the lightest of moments – engaging in fellowship over tea or going fishing. Instead, the essence of John’s friendship to Jesus lies in the joy he finds in Jesus’s success.

Remember that John’s followers are scandalized that someone else is baptizing in the name of the Messiah. John could easily have become jealous of Jesus, or chosen to receive him as an adversary instead of a leader. But he humbled himself, and graciously made a path for Jesus’s ministry to overtake his own.

8Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” (1 Peter 3:8)

John gave Jesus the most important gift of friendship anyone can give another: precedence.

Of course, Jesus is the Lord. It was only right for Jesus to be superior to John, and for John to acknowledge His authority. And obviously, all Christians should follow that example.

But shouldn’t we also grant our friends precedence?

14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15)

It is our responsibility to love one another un-selfishly, to exalt others over ourselves, and to do so humbly, without bitterness or resentment. The world will tell us that we are number one, that we should look out for ourselves; that is not Biblical. We are directed to serve each other, “28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Therefore, go and take joy in each others’ successes. Pray for graciousness and humility, and that the Lord will soften your hearts toward others. Pray for a servant heart modelled after Christ’s own.

The best way for us as believers to learn to serve our King is to first learn to serve each other.


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