Think about the last “meet-and-greet” social situation you attended. (For me, it was a men’s retreat this past weekend — I didn’t even know the other 3 guys from my church, let alone the other 80 or so from elsewhere around Colorado.)
Now think about this: How was this “meet-and-greet” time like some — or more than some — of the relationships you have right now? And what do you do to get past that “meet-and-greet” stage and actually get to know someone?
Getting to know new people can be exciting for some—and terrifying for others. God can use a chance encounter to do something meaningful, but odds are the most meaningful encounters most of us will ever have will be with those we stick it out with over the long haul. Because we experience each other’s highs and lows together, both we and our friends are changed.
Now, take those relationships and put Jesus in the center. When that happens, our relationships take on a character greater than anything we could ever have imagined. And it’s something we’ll want to see happen in every relationship we have. So let’s explore how our commitment to Jesus and our commitment to others can come together to become something extraordinary — something that truly glorifies God.
There are several passages of scripture that illustrate what a deep, committed friendship looks like. Here are just a few examples:
• Ruth 1:3-18 (Ruth & Naomi)
• 1 Samuel 20:1-17, 24-34 (David & Jonathan)
• 1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:1-14 (Elijah & Elisha)
• Acts 9:21-28; 11:19-26 (Paul & Barnabas)
• 2 Timothy 1:3-10, 2:1-9 (Paul & Timothy)
Think about those relationships you want to take to the next level. You probably have at least one in mind already. But it’s going to take work. Dietrich Bonhoeffer captured this in Life Together: “The Christian, however, must bear the burden of a brother. He must suffer and endure the brother. It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated.”
What keeps you from “suffer[ing] and endur[ing]” some of the people who God puts in your life? What would need to change in you, so you felt prepared to take on that person’s burden—and became a better friend to him or her?
We’re going to explore this more in the coming weeks. But for now, keep thinking about your answers to those last couple questions. We all need each other in order to grow, and having friends who can help us is a huge factor in making that happen. May God bless your efforts to develop not only friendships, but spiritual friendships.