Thursday, October 25, 2012

Friends make friends

Friendly orange'What I'd really like is a pint of freshly squeezed orange juice!' One of our house family was feeling rough last night. One of those lingering colds. Hearing his orange juice longing, my 9-year-old daughter and I nipped out to a local store and got him a carton of posh Clementine juice. I think he was well-blessed.

Friendship is priceless.

There's a bit of a catchphrase round our place at the moment: 'friends make friends'. When we're truly friends with each other, it's attractive; others want to join in.

So we've been upping the importance of friendship in our household (by 'household' I mean not only those of us who live in our community house, but our wider circle of members and friends, too). We all know, somewhere in our bones, that friendship is simply the best thing in life. But we need to hear it sometimes, especially when busyness and clashing priorities can seem so pressing. And also because friendship - just chilling together, enjoying each other, laughing, playing - can seem somehow less spiritual than, for instance, all closing our eyes and singing a Matt Redman song.

I think that's a mistake. Friendship is centre stage, not in the wings.

There's a beautiful little bit tucked away at the end of one of the smaller letters in the New Testament: 'The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them.' (3 John 15) Christians are called 'friends'. Not 'members' (powerful word if it means parts of one body, less so if it means belonging to a club); not even 'brethren'; but friends.

There have been many attempts to define friendship, some of which make good fridge magnet type quotations. 'Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies'. That's Aristotle, y'know (thanks Google). 'A friend is someone who knows all about you and still likes you.' That sort of thing.

I like some of the biblical proverbs about friendship:

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17) 'That's what friends are for' they say about help given in hard times. True word that.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (18:24) There's something about friendships formed in Christ which has the potential to run deeper by far than even family ties - and certainly deeper than just those we sit next to once a week on Sunday.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (27:6) We usually take this to mean that the truthful reality of a friend is worth a lot even when it hurts - which is true. But I also wonder if it may include the idea that it's better to be hurt unintentionally by a true friend than to lap up the false blandishments of a false friend. Certainly I've been often hurt by my friends in Christ - but they're still my true friends and I ought to remember this. Mustn't let offence rob me of that.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. (27:9) Beautiful. There's nothing quite like heart-to-heart honesty with a dear, deep friend.

So we're into friendship: meals round friends' houses; parties with treacle toffee; days out together; games; laughter; nicknames; prayers.

We want a widening circle of friends. Life affords nothing better.

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