OK, so you read yesterday’s post and now you’re motivated to pursue biblical friendship, but how? What do I do now? Thankfully, Jonathan Holmes’s excellent new book on biblical friendships is packed with tips on how to make, cultivate, and keep friends. Here are a few I picked out.
1. Cultivate the greatest friendship
“As the first and most important step, be encouraged in your friendship with Jesus Christ. Our Savior died for you so he could call you a friend! He is the faithful friend, the supreme friend. So cry out to him. Ask for the ability to understand biblical friendship better, and as a result to receive the grace and courage to pursue others with a glad heart.” (28)
Cistercian monk, Aelred of Rievaulx said: “[Friendships] take their beginning from Christ, advance through Christ, and are perfected in Christ.”
2. Don’t make an idol of friendships:
“When we make a good thing into an ultimate thing, it becomes a bad thing. (39)
3. Change the measure of your life
“When we reflect on our lives, they are measured not by our incomes or good works, but by our relationships— by our friendships.” (Ed Welch quoted on p. 13).
4. Beware of substitutes
“There are three substitutes we frequently take for the real thing: social media friendships, specialized friendships [based on a common interest or activity], and selfish [purely what I can get out of it] friendships.” (32)
“Technology, social media, and common interests are helpful contexts and tools to help facilitate friendship, but friendship itself is always more than these.” (41)
5. Prepare for disappointments and discomfort
The book opens with typical stories of Christians who have been disappointed and frustrated in finding, making, and keeping Christian friends.
“This begins to get to the core of the problem: our sinful desire for control. We want friendships on our timetable, our terms of agreement. We do not want friendships that would move us out of our comfort zone.” (34)
6. Give the grace you have received
“If our individual walks with the Lord are so characterized by instability, imperfection, and weakness, why should we imagine that biblical friendships must somehow be seamless and perfect to be legitimate?” (97)
7. Read the Proverbs
- Flee jealousy (Prov. 6:34; 27:4)
- Be loyal (Prov. 20:6; 18:24)
- Be truthful/honest (Prov. 28:23)
- Keep confidences (Prov. 11:13)
8. Seek and promote spiritual good
“The willingness to engage in biblical candor for the sake of another’s spiritual good is one way in which biblical friendship is obviously and dramatically different from those worldly substitutes that typically ignore unpleasant subjects.” (53)
9. Ask good questions
Here are some practical kickstarter questions, best asked thoughtfully and graciously:
- How can I pray for you?
- Where are you struggling?
- Where have you experienced God’s grace in your struggle?
- Where has God been up to good in your life recently?
- What is bringing joy to your heart?
- Where do you see me growing spiritually?
- How can I be a better friend to you? (69)
10. Work it out in ordinary life
“By ‘redeeming ordinary moments,’ I simply mean that some of the regular activities of daily life can be enhanced as we do them with others. Everyday life can be experienced on a different level when shared in the context of biblical friendship.” (98)
11. Recognize your psychological bandwidth is limited
“In his humanity, Jesus had limitations on his time and “psychological bandwidth,” just like you and I do. God chose to show us in his Word that even the divine Son could only maintain a limited number of what we are calling biblical friendships.” (84)
12. Dedicate time
“In his book A Meal With Jesus, Tim Chester records a 33 percent decrease in families eating together over the last 30 years and a 45 percent decrease in friends doing so.” (67)
“If we want to have biblical friendships, we need to be people who relish the opportunity simply to talk. Ask yourself, Can I really expect to have a decent friendship of any kind— much less a biblical one— with someone I rarely talk to? Or someone I don’t talk to about my actual joys and struggles?” (66-67)
Our friendships should be better, deeper, richer than anything the world enjoys.
The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship by Jonathan Holmes.