Friendship is trending.
More than ever, the subject occupies books, podcasts, articles, movies, and the wandering thoughts of a hurting nation.
While our differences fill our corporate consciousness, an existential whisper of loneliness exacerbates our separation.
The pandemic and subsequent quarantine isolation poured gasoline on a sense of aloneness that many carried quietly through busy, noise-filled days.
Currently, we see once-committed Christians leaving their local churches on the regular.
Participating in a community always entails agitations as imperfect people attempt to get along by God's grace. Many have lost their sense of civility with the loss of proximity — giving the benefit of the doubt is a rare commodity these days.
While our current rage, divisiveness, and polarization are serious issues, the sickness runs deeper. We're lonely, and we're scared.
I know you feel it.
The heartache is present as you scroll through social media for hours.
The disappointment is there when you fume about others letting you down.
The pain remains as you consider leaving your current community to find better friends in another.
Hence, the rise in talking about friendship, and a deep down hope that friends can cure our loneliness.
The Church as a Community of Friends
An implication of the gospel is deep-rooted friendships defined by Jesus:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. — John 15:13
To steal and rework a line from The Dark Knight — Jesus is not the friend we deserve but the friend we need.
He died, transforming enemies into friends, and reconciled unlikely friends together (Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 2:11-22). Through friendship, the church can grow and mature into the image of Jesus (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Curt Thompson consistently speaks of the transforming power of relationships from his study of Scripture and neuroscience. Relationships — where we feel both safe and loved — rewire our brain's ability to live into the freedom of friendship. This transformation begins with vulnerability in small circles of trustworthy friends and overflows to the rest of the world (Source).
In the 1650s, the Quakers called the church a Society of Friends (Source).
The Quakers understood that "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverb18:24).
True friendship is life-changing.
We would do well to invest in friends. And it is fitting to long for companions because God hardwired relationships into our DNA when He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26).
Yet, friends expecting each other to cure loneliness is a burden too significant to bear — even when God designed His church for formative friendships.
Join me next week as we look at how we expect too much from and misuse friendship. But for now, reach out to a friend and let them know you're thinking about them.
Still not signed up for the Pause to Reset Newsletter? Join now and receive a free resource to help you grow in emotional and spiritual maturity.