My wife and I were recently discussing friendships that we’ve had over the years, both good and bad. We spoke about what we believe makes a true friend and the things that are friendship killers in most people’s relationships. We both agreed that sincerity and depth are what make true friendships last and what seems to be missing from most people’s relationships these days, and we realized that neither of us were immune from this problem in our lives.
As for me and my family, we’ve been on the receiving end of shallow relationships meant only to give the appearance of importance but lacking any substance at all. Even though my wife is literally the most personable person I know and could easily befriend a complete stranger, nevertheless, we’ve faced down the disappointment of friendships that have never gone beyond surface level.
I mention all this to transition to the fact that this problem is very prevalent in the one place it shouldn’t be…namely the church. While I’m not naïve to the thought that not everyone will be great friends within a church body, I can personally relate to the fact that very few friendships go beneath the surface. Maybe it’s because we’re so busy these days, although I believe we use that excuse far too many times. Maybe there are too many cliques inside most congregations that all too often and unknowingly alienate people who are not part of their group.
While I believe these factors have something to do with it, I think the problem lies with the average personality in the 21st century. We are an arrogant society nowadays, mostly looking out for our own interests and having very little time for the interests of others. Of course there are exceptions to this rule around us all the time, but generally speaking, we tend to look out for ourselves first. Let’s ask ourselves these very pointed questions:
- Do we take the time to actually focus on the underlying struggles that other people face, or do we just blindly add them to the prayer list?
- Do we act friendly on the outside or only when others are around, but not truly care about the people around us?
- Are the majority of our friendships and relationships with other Christians no deeper than a Facebook post now and then, or do we actually know them on the inside and know what really makes them tick?
I ask these difficult questions because we all need to be more aware of and considerate to those around us. The church itself was created with intimate relationships in mind, and we all must do our part to make that happen. The church is the last place where people should feel ostracized or judged or left out. We have a common mission of serving God and helping one another live godly lives, and that is easier to accomplish when we’re friendly with one another on a deeper level than just talking about the weather or last night’s football game.
Take the time to meditate on the following verses of Scripture and look for ways that you can be a better friend to those around you.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5)
“ Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)