Summary: Fundamentals of Friendship from Paul’s joyful letter to the Philippians.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi he talks a lot about joy. One of the things you can’t imagine a joyful person being without is friends. Joyful people make friends. Joyful people are friends to others. If you really want to enjoy your life you will need friends.
God created us to enjoy one another. He never intended for any of us to live isolated lonely lives.
Paul was a very joyful man, and one of the reasons for that was, he made friends everywhere he went. Even as he writes from a Roman prison cell and closes his letter to the Philippians he mentions his friendships both at Rome and at Philippi.
4:21-23 (Msg) Give our regards to every Christian you meet. Our friends here say hello. 22 All the Christians here, especially the believers who work in the palace of Caesar, want to be remembered to you. 23 Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves.
That is so remarkable. Paul is under sentence of death and his last words in his letter are not, "pray for me to get out of jail", or "woe is me," but he’s sharing greetings from one set of friends to another. That’s a sign of a joyful life. One of the reasons Paul enjoyed life so much is because he made so many friends. That’s a great key to your enjoyment of life as well.
So how did Paul do it? How did he make friends? How can you make friends?
Here are some Fundamentals of Friendship from Paul’s last words in his letter to the Philippians.
1. Take the initiative.
If you want to enjoy friendship with others – you’re going to have to learn to take some initiative.
Do you know why a lot of people don’t have the friends they so deeply long to have? Because they’re afraid to be the one to initiate.
Notice again what Paul says in verse 21: Give our regards to every Christian you meet. Our friends here say hello.
Paul and the friends he made in Rome were initiating the greeting. "Tell all the believers in Philippi I said hello. Tell them my friends here in Rome say hello." And he’s also telling the recipients of the letter to take the initiative in greeting others.
Go ahead, take the initiative. You say, "but I’ve taken the initiative before and I got shot down. The person or people I was trying to befriend weren’t interested, or they were too busy, or whatever…"
It’s okay if you try to be someone’s friend and they’re not ready. Paul experienced that all the time. In every city he went to telling the Good News about Jesus, there were people who didn’t want to be his friends. …In fact, there were a lot of people who became his enemies.
The reason we’re afraid to initiate is we’re afraid of being turned down or let down. Sometimes it’s because we have too much pride. But somehow we need to overcome this fear of rejection.
We’ve got to learn how to overcome the fear of rejection. And that’s difficult for some of us because another big reason we’re afraid to initiate is that we’ve experienced some very painful rejections in our lives. Some of you have had parents to reject you. Some of you have had spouses to reject you, siblings to reject you, people at school to reject you, people you thought were your friends have rejected you. You’re still nursing your wounds. It still hurts.
In his book, "A Child Called It", David Pelzer tells about suffering rejection from his parents growing up. His story is horrendous. He was treated more like an animal than a child. In fact, there were times when the only food he ate came from the family dog’s bowl. There were times when he went hungry for days on end, times when his mother poured ammonia down his throat, and even worse things.
But now he labels himself a survivor. In the end of the book he says that estimates are that one in five children in America are either physically, emotionally or sexually abused. He says, "On any given day, some adult who is the victim of a dark past of child abuse may vent his or her pent-up frustrations on society or on those he or she may love."
He continues, "Many child abuse victims hide their past deep inside…some child abuse victims stay quietly locked in their shells."
Some of you have been hurt by someone in your past.
One of the best things you could do right now is to conquer that hurt with the healing power of Christ. But I will tell you that it’s going to require treatment. Physical injury requires physical treatment and emotional injuries require emotional treatment.