“Rosaria’s repeated calls to pursue and build friendships inside and outside the Christian community coincided with me reading a number of books on friendship over the previous months and spurred me on to read the next book on my list, The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship by Jonathan Holmes, Pastor of Counseling at Parkside Church in Cleveland. And what a wonderful book it turned out to be.”
A couple of weeks ago, Rosaria Butterfield spoke at PRTS and left a deep impression upon all of us. One of the points she kept returning to was the compelling power of friendship in her pre-Christian lesbian lifestyle, in her coming to Christ, and in her Christian witness and service in subsequent years.
Rosaria’s repeated calls to pursue and build friendships inside and outside the Christian community coincided with me reading a number of books on friendship over the previous months and spurred me on to read the next book on my list, The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship by Jonathan Holmes, Pastor of Counseling at Parkside Church in Cleveland. And what a wonderful book it turned out to be. Like all Cruciform books, it’s short, simple, and practical – and also profoundly challenging.
Instead of reviewing it, I decided the best way to encourage you to read this book was to summarize it under two headings, (1) Motivations to Biblical Friendships and (2) Making Biblical Friendships. I’ll cover the second area tomorrow, but here are eight motives to biblical friendships that I found throughout the book.
1. The nature of God
“We are, after all, offspring of the Triune God who has always existed as a unity of three persons…God actually draws us into that triune friendship as co-participants.” (Ed Welch quoted on p.13)
“The eternal Trinity is the most fundamental expression of community and relationship.” (19)
2. The image of God
“One of the simplest yet most profound aspects of mankind being made in God’s image is that we were designed to live in relationships.” (19)
“Adam was created to pursue, develop, and maintain human relationships as an integral part of being made in the image of the triune God.” (20)
3. Spiritual growth
“[Adam’s] growth and significance [was] worked out in relationships.” (R. Kent Hughes quoted on p. 19)
4. Gospel Witness
“More than any other relationship, biblical friendship demonstrates to the world a spiritual unity rooted in the supernatural.” (94)
“Rather than serving as an end in itself, biblical friendship serves primarily to bring glory to Christ, who brought us into friendship with the Father. It is indispensable to the work of the gospel in the earth, and an essential element of what God created us for.” (27)
“When our friendships exist for our own pleasure, comfort, and relational happiness, rather than a communication of God’s love and mercy in the gospel, we’re telling the [Gospel] story badly, and we may be telling the wrong story altogether.” (24)
5. Increased happiness
“God made us in such a way that we cannot enjoy paradise without friends. God made us in such a way that we cannot enjoy our joy without friends.” (Timothy Keller quoted on p. 20)
6. Jesus’s need of friends:
Hugh Black: “He was perfectly human, and therefore felt the lack of friendship.”
“Whether it was twelve disciples of random backgrounds or a family like that of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, friendship was an indispensable element of Jesus’ earthly ministry.” (20-21)
7. Jesus’s choice of friends:
Remember who Jesus calls friends (John 15:13-15).
“Jesus, through his death on the cross, be-friends us so we can now go and be friends with others” (25).
“When we embody biblical friendship, we bear Jesus’ image, his character, his priorities, and his glory.” (26)
8. Distinguish between fellowship and friendship
“[Fellowship] can pave the way to the development of biblical friendships. But in this book I want to help you see what Christian fellowship can look like when taken to the next level and applied more personally. This is fellowship that has been given added depth, refinement, and detail through active investment in one another’s lives. It’s what I’m calling biblical friendship.” (18)
Eight wonderful and beautiful reasons to seek biblical friendships. Hopefully you’re now persuaded that this is something to pursue. But how? Tune in tomorrow for 12 Tips For Making Friends from The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship. Even better, buy the book and find out for yourself. It would also make an excellent book for a 6-week small-group or youth-group study.
David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.