There’s nothing like a close friend. When we were in seminary at Gordon-Conwell and after Mary and I were just married, we were friends with three other couples who were all living in the same on-campus residence. We shared values, interests, life-stage, cultural backgrounds, missions in life, and location! We also had unorthodox schedules because of our studying, which allowed us to drop by during the day or stay up late hanging out and talking about the ups and downs of our daily lives. It was great. It was a unique experience to have such close friends living in such close proximity to each other. I learned the value of good friendship with these three other couples.
The denomination I’m a part of was originally called Mission Friends. The idea was that they were united by their friendship on a common mission from God. What a wonderful name, Mission Friends. At the heart of the friendship nomenclature is the foundational verse in John 15:12-15.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. no longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made know to you.
Christians are really just friends on a mission together. We are invited into a friendship relationship with God, and then we can go out to the world and declare, “God wants to be your friend!” He wants to have a friendship with you.
I’ve been reading some material in preparation for a denominational class, and I’ve come across some great friendship quotes that I’ll share with you here. All quotes are from Lambert’s Befriending in God’s Name, and seek to explicate a shift in language and mission that emphasize the relational metaphor of Friend.
- “The friends who join together in common vision…can be not only numerous, but also different…friendship bonds are not exclusive to ‘equals’ any more than to ‘like minds.’ Neither equality nor gender-identity pertain nor do the elitist result”
- “Relationship is the substance of the gospel, not merely the context for its communication…The primary purpose for Christian mission is to introduce others to the Friend and help them experience God’s friendship calling them into loyalty…”
- “Conversion ceases to be an accurate label for the still essential process of having one’s life ‘turned around.’ Instead it might be better to think of ‘finding and being found’.”
- “Instead of responding to a commandment to ‘go and do unto,’ the missionary responds to, and offers, an invitation to come along and be with.”
Throughout the article, Lambert doesn’t attempt to turn theologies on their head. She is simply “calling attention to the mode of his (Jesus) presence and ministry among people.” Jesus had friends, and he ministered as a friend. He was not domineering or coercive. He didn’t bait and switch. He didn’t manipulate or guilt. He was a friend to sinners–a model I strive to follow.