Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Beauty of Christian Friendship

Was thanking God last night for the beauty of friendship; more so, the beauty of Christian friendship.

All of us bring various types of relational dysfunctionalities into the Christian life: scars from imperfect parenting, barely-healed wounds from difficult childhoods, insecurities from our teenage and young adult years…We carry a lot of baggage from our pagan lives: hurting others and being hurt by others. That is the nature of a sinful, fallen world where nothing works and far too many relationships see us lost, lying in a bleeding prickly entangled mess in a dark rat-infested corner of a slum.

Somehow, in knowing Christ, everything changes: light comes into our lives; we are picked up, washed clean, patched up, pointed in the right direction and given a map of the road ahead view of the world.

So many things change drastically, including our understanding of relationships:
  • previously, a "perfect" relationship would be defined based on the degree to which the other person could make us happy and attend to our needs. But seeing the model of other-person-centred love between the Father, Son and Spirit in the Trinity, we can finally see how God made us to be happy and what a perfect relationship looks like when both parties are not stingily snatching whatever benefit they can get from the other without giving in return;
  • the Spirit gives us both the will and the ability to love another person with less and less selfish motives;
  • in fact, because we have all the love we could ever wish for or want in our relationship with God, our emotional insecurities and needs are met. We have someone who so loved us that he sent his Son to die for us. And our hunger for acceptance is quelled, for what can be more "I'm OK", more "in" and more "hip" than being accepted by the most powerful person in the universe and be called his child? So in our relationships with others, we no longer have to cling to another person, emotionally blackmail them into showing love to us or manipulate them into accepting us. Thus secure, we can begin to love them and serve them selflessly.
The beauty of a Christian friendship is that both parties start to live out all of this together. There isn't a a bouncy old fairy godmother to change us from an ogre to a prince with a wave of her stick. We are still sinners in a fallen world and will continue to be hurt and hurt others. But we are saved sinners who have a knowledge of God and the Spirit in us, helping us do the hard work of becoming more and more like Christ.

The beauty of a Christian friendship is that both parties are walking in the same direction, so travelling side-by-side, they encourage each other when the going gets tough and help each other when a particularly stubborn woolly mammoth blocks their path. There is a basic understanding that when one party wanders off to look at a deceptively pretty flower on the edge of a mountain, the other pulls him back and they set off again together toward God and the promise of a new heaven and new earth.

The beauty of a Christian friendship is that it is a safe place to work out our godliness. We can confess our specific past sins and ask for ongoing help and accountability with present temptations without fear that such a revelation would scare the other person away. The other person is committed to our good which is to grow more and more like our brother Jesus, and will not break the fellowship when we are being particularly mean and hurtful or lapse into boring self-centredness (thus honing his own godliness, no doubt).

Thank God for the unspeakable beauty of a fellow-traveller.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)

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