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.
April 2, 1987, I remember getting a phone call from my mother to inform us that my grandmother had passed away. Just like several of you, my grandmother possessed a special place because she acted much like a second mother. I called the elders to okay a leave for a couple of days to go and be with the family. Before I hung up we prayed. Laira and I loaded things into the car, and we headed on our 200-hundred mile trek toward home. Two days later one of the families from the church, quite by surprise, arrived at the memorial service. It did our hearts good to
In September of 1999, Barb Bussian, Jill’s mom, was making daily visits to our home to check on Laira and see the baby after Jonathon’s birth. Just five days after Jonathon was born I found myself in the hospital with a serious Gall bladder attack. Barb made her way into the hospital – made phone calls – and stayed several hours, while the diagnosis was being made, keeping Laira updated. It did our hearts good to have one we ministered too, minister to us.
What is friendship exactly? That is a difficult question to answer.
John Paul Sarte said hell in defining hell was other people.
T. S. Eliot in a play, entitled The Cocktail Party, has a charcter Celia Copplestone, and when she is in the midst of all of these people who are supposedly her friends from society, and yet she makes the observations that she has never been lonelier.
Poets, playwrights, philosophers, novelists, preachers all have attempted to offer a definition of what friendship is.
Yet as Christians, what we have to do is say, “What does God’s Word say about friendship?”