Summary: In a world crying out for friendship, 3 John helps us to define the kinds of friendships that define Christian community.
Committed to Christian Friendship
Everybody wants it.
But few know how to find it.
Some would give their life for a taste.
Most are left desperate.
Searching in loneliness for a friend.
In the July 21, 1980 issue of Time Magazine there was an essay entitled “Friends, And Countrymen”. The essayist was speaking about the loss of friendship in our country as a nation, and toward the American citizens as individuals. The essayist wrote these words: “There are friendships based on passion, on pity, on pleasure, on comradeship, on professional advantage, on intellectual agreement, on mutual admiration, on spiritual convictions, on personal advancement, on hero worship, on protection, on need, on loyalty, on fear. None of these elements preclude any other. And most friendships incorporate several of them at once.”
And yet the essayist goes on to remark, “All friendships are precarious. Passion cools. Pleasure fades. Pity and hero worship breed resentment. Companionship grows boring. And need degenerates into dependence. Comradeship looses its occasion. Suddenly it is clear how fragile friendships is, how quickly it can be replaced by enmity, or by nothing.”
And then it concludes in the final two sentences: “The reason that Shakespeare had Mark Antony address his audience as friends before Romans and countrymen is that he knew how the heart leaps up at the smallest signs of brotherhood. Feeling more alone in the world than ever, we Americans also leap for those signs.”
In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putman says the following statistics are indicators of the decline in community life in America over the past 25 years:
Attending club meetings: down 58%
Family dinners: down 33%
Having friends over: down 45%
In 1984, Michael W. Smith came out with the song Friends. It speaks of the national desire for friendship that for over a decade that some was used repeatedly on Christian campuses and non-Christian campuses alike as the #1 graduation song.
Could it be more be more than a mere coincidence that one of the top rated shows in the 1980’s and 90’s season after season was situated in a New England pub; “A place where everyone knows your name” … a place where friendships were developed.
And that over the last nine television season, people were drawn to the story of 6 Friends.
So this morning, I want to offer some observations on friendship, both from God’s Word and from experience.
When I was ministering in Athens, IL for 3 plus years, day after day, I could see the same scene. Sometimes I would see this old man drive up in his car along side of the cemetery. Other times we would see him just getting out of the car as best he could, and in his hands he clutched some flowers. And other times, we could see him walking across the grounds, sitting beside a tombstone and putting his head in his hands and cry. I found out from some friends of ours that he had lost his closest friend, his wife, and for years he had been making this painful visited because he was so terribly lonely.