Friendship that Heals a Church
By Taylor Mendoza
Pastor of Student Ministries
Hello Church Family,
The well-known pastor J. C. Ryle once said of friendship, “This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our sorrows and doubles our joy.”
The world that we live in is full of sin and depravity. I am a sinner; you are a sinner; we both are sinners. Yet, despite a world filled with sin, God, in His amazing grace, sent His Son into the world to save sinners. In anticipation of this work on the cross, Jesus could confidently say, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:13-15
We are friends with the God of the universe, and purpose-built to be friends with one another. This is why I call friendship “true refreshment.” Biblically speaking, friendship is not based on likes, dislikes, race, job, degree, literal-blood, or even Facebook. Friendship is not based on gossip, fear, or even social advantage. True friendship finds its proper grounds in the gospel of Jesus Christ and our common adoption into His family. This is truly refreshing.
One example of this is when Paul told Philemon to forgive Onesimus, who was one of his slaves and to see him not as a slave, but as a beloved brother (Philemon 15-17). This power of the gospel to change our relationships is not only a biblical thing but also a thing that our church needs. True friendships will heal a broken body of believers. Indeed, friendships that find their common unity in the gospel will enable us to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, and will half our sorrows, but double our joys.
As a body of believers at Northpoint Church, my hope is that we would cultivate friendships that comfort those in distress, bring joy to those who need encouragement, and refresh those who are weary. Esther Edwards Burr, Jonathan Edward’s daughter and the mother of the third vice president of the United States, Aaron Burr, wrote to her friend one time, “It is a great comfort to me when my friends are absent from me that I have them somewhere in the world, and you my dear … I esteem you one of the best, and in some respects nearer than any sister I have. I have not one sister I can write so freely too as to you, the sister of my heart.”
She later said of friendship, “Nothing is more refreshing to the soul (except communication with God himself), than the company and society of a friend … it is a great mercy that we have any friends—What would this world be without them? … Friendship is the life of life.”
In the meantime, how can we practically cultivate biblical friendship as a body of believers pursuing healing? I can think of three ways:
1. Recognize the depth and power of sin.
As I have already tried to point out, the Bible has a different mindset when it comes to friendship. Often, when I think others are the problem, I forget just how sinful I really am. The more that I remember I am a sinner, the more I am willing to pursue friendship with no strings attached. I expect sin in my friendships. Sin is a powerful agent that dismantles a church, wrecks our souls, and eats at our friendships. We would do well to remind ourselves of just how deep our sin problem really is. This means that repentance and forgiveness are the lifeblood of truly refreshing friendships in the church.
2. Change the way you view friendships.
The Bible seems very clear that true friendship is grounded on the gospel of Jesus Christ and our common adoption into His family. We consider one another as friends because we are already brothers and sisters in Christ. We also consider one another friends because Jesus died not just for us individually (although he did), but also for a chosen people. Some of us may need to be challenged to look at friendships differently in the days ahead. Others might need to devote attention toward cultivating new friendships during a time of trial such as this.
This in no way means that we do not have friendships with non-believers. That needs to happen. However, this does mean that friendships with non-believers are shallow at best because they are not grounded on the gospel or a common adoption into Christ’s family.
3. Don’t abandon the friendship boat at Northpoint.
Some of us may be tempted to run away from the problems in our life, in our church, or even in our current friendships. Others may distance themselves from friends in order to protect their own emotions. Regardless of how you feel, may I appeal to you to not abandon friendships at Northpoint. Rather, cultivate friendships not on shallow grounds, but on gospel grounds.
This does not mean that friendship with one another is always dandelions and roses. Friendship can be painful and sorrowful at times. However, it is worth it because if found on proper grounds, they double our joys and half our sorrows.
So, please be sure to gather with your Northpoint family in the Worship Center, at 4:00 p.m., THIS Sunday afternoon, November 3, for the All-church Meeting with NL Moore (see below) to get their full report. Let us, as friends, hear some tough things, repent, forgive one another, and rest on the sure hope of the gospel.
Pastor of Student Ministries