Think of your closest and oldest friend.
How is that you are still friends with that person after years and years of life changes, moves, babies, marriages, conflicts, sin, and intrusions? Or maybe a better question is: do you have a friend with which you’ve experienced a range of life and disagreements and have still maintained an uncommonly close bond? If not, why not?
I think the reason we don’t experience deep and lasting friendships is absence of commitment. It’s like if you were simply shacking up with your husband instead of in a committed covenant. It wouldn’t make for a very trusting relationship. I think the same is true for friendship. And yes, it matters what that commitment’s foundation is: namely Christ and the cross.
Real friendship cannot begin until the question of commitment is settled. If you’re not sure I’m committed to you and our friendship, no matter what you may do or have done, then you’ll never risk the kind of sharing and loving and living life together that reveals who you are with me. (I’m not suggesting friendship with no conditions, but as few as possible Biblically).
I think this is what stunts our friendships in the body of Christ at the more shallow levels (especially at large churches). We end up with 100 friends all of whom have seen the best of us, none of whom really know us.
True friendship is hindered when we can’t be certain that we won’t be dropped for another friend who’s a little more charismatic, witty, and enjoyable.
Because if you really knew me, you’d know I’m boring 75% of the time. And unless you’re committed to me, you’re not going to hang out at my house all day when my dull personality is on display.
Unless you’ve decided your love for me is constant, you won’t endure the conflicts that happen; or the times of sorrow; or the moments of drama. You won’t care enough to point me to Christ in my sin. You’ll trade it in for the next new shiny friendship that comes along with all it’s start-up excitement and fun.
And if I’m not committed to you, I’ll shut-down the moment I think you’ve drifted away. I’ll quit caring and quit pursuing. I’ll decide it’s not worth the trouble and look for friendship elsewhere. I won’t invite you over, because I’ll think you’re the kind of friend who needs my “A” game to enjoy time together, when all I’ve got today is a sub-par “C” game.
I think of David and Jonathan whose friendship was a soul-uniting commitment unparalleled in the Bible. I think of Ruth whose commitment to Naomi and her God made her a direct ancestor to Jesus! What freedom from fear there is in commitment!
Being a part of the body of Christ is an amazingly high calling. It’s so high it baffles me. And to think that we are to be committed to the body in such a life-altering way is overwhelming. But what freedom there is in a commitment based on Christ and the Cross!!! Commitment means whether near or far, the love and relationship remains, because it’s based on something bigger than location.
It means I’m called to love and live life with those God puts directly in my path. It means I can lovingly say goodbye to those people when they move far away. It means we never have to form cliques. It means we can embrace new friendships, because they don’t threaten the old ones.
Paradoxically, commitment based on the cross means we’re more willing to let go of people. We hold onto them loosely, knowing that we are bound in Christ forever. The very commitment that knits our lives together in Christ, also allows that knitting together to be disrupted for the sake of Christ, trusting that we are one in Him for eternity.
I’m thanking God for the friends He’s given me that are committed to our friendship. Not a commitment based on my worth, but on Christ’s.
One more thing: Check out a insightful post about friendship and indebtedness by Andy.
Great post Abigail! A. Men.
Good post. Thanks for the link. Here are my thoughts.
You’re right on. Commitment is a two-way street though. It is something that has to be mutually agreed upon. No one is married to someone who does not want to be married.
I have been a part of groups of friends like this. Strangely it mirrors marriage more than one might think. There often has to be a “ceremony” at the beginning where the commitments are made and agreed upon. What are we going to commit to each other. There are hard times, struggles, highs and lows. The commitment has to be constantly renewed.
So what does this look like pragmatically? If there is a person that I would like to be friends with (not just say hello friends), then I have to ask for that persons friendship. If the offer is accepted, the commitment is made and the adventure begins. At what point should this offer be made? Difficult question. There should probably be a time of acquaintance. But then a decision is made, will this person be my friend or will we wane towards nothing. In relationship, there is no such thing as static. It should happen sooner than later though.
Good post. Thanks for the link.
A ceremony for friendship commitment? Interesting concept.. a little weird, but interesting. 🙂
I wonder how that type of formal commitment effects the clique-ish-ness of the friendships? Or maybe it frees them up to be non-clique-ish, because there’s no worry about the friendship evaporating..
If you can’t tell, I think that cliques in the body of Christ are an offense to Christ and the Cross, so I think a lot about exclusion and inclusion.. yet at the same time *love* committed friendships.
Funny that I should have chosen to revisit your blog when you wrote a post on keeping in touch with friends. I know it’s only “never-met-in-person cyber friendship”, but it’s still friendship. It has been a busy time for us. Hope your family is well…
Well said. I do think the type of intimate friendship you describe may have a tendency toward cliques, because this kind of friendship is so superior to the more shallow kind. You well-described the cure, I think.
Beautiful post! I know Andy and Amanda from college and the topic of your post intriqued me. This is a topic my husband and I have spent a lot of time talking and praying through. Oh how I long for all friendships to be so committed and reflective of Christ, but unfortunately not all. Thank the Lord for those few friends who do love us constantly and unconditionally. Blessings to you and your family!
(would you mind me referencing this post sometime on my blog?)
Thanks for the comment Jenny and feel free to reference away!