Growth and Christian Friendship
Crucial truths come in threes. We worship a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We pursue faith, hope and love. But against God and us stand three enemies: the world, our own flesh, and the devil. They are more powerful, and they thwart us from experiencing good – God himself – and the good life – a life of faith, hope and love. What then? God, in jealous love for us, gives even more grace (James 4:6). This grace flows to us through the Word, prayer, and koinonia – fellowship with other saints. Grace does not flow through every conversation with other Christians, but there is some grace which can only flow to us through fellowship, through Christian friendship.
I once heard a pastor explain it this way: “Ya gotta have yer BRO’S!” (He was, after all, from St. Louis). He meant that we need Christian friends for fruitful endurance. Some grace only comes to us by means of Christian friends. Our friends affect us, shape us, help us – or hinder us. I tell my kids this, but Christian friendship never stops being necessary for us, no matter our age.
How do you spot a Christian friendship? It begins with at least one person believing that the gospel is really true. One person believes that wherever sin abounds, God’s grace really does abound all the more (Romans 5:20) – really. Whatever ugliness or shame that’s revealed by one is met not with a lecture or personal advice, but with grace – God’s grace – by the other.
So then, transparency is necessary in Christian friendship. But it is the product of the gospel being believed as true. Grace invites honest self-disclosure.
It’s at this point that some, especially guys, cringe. But you want this kind of friendship, whether you realize it or not. I say this because I know you want to know this triune God better; you want to walk in faith in him, in love of him and others, and in hope of your reward in heaven. You want to not succumb to your enemies, but instead overcome them (the name for Christians in Revelation is “those who overcome”). You want these, and God wants them for you, too. So He gives Christian friendships – not gurus, but other beggars, in need of grace, who found it.
In this kind of gospeled, transparent friendship, we change. As one bit of life is revealed, one bit of gospel truth is provided. Faith and truth are lovingly transmitted, one to the other. And both are changed.