Britain is the 3rd loneliest country in Europe according to the Office for National Statistics. Some five million people have no close friends. Loneliness has long been recognised and worked on for older people, but recent research is showing an epidemic of friendlessness among younger people. You’d think with Facebook “friends” that people would have lots of friends, but the reverse seems to be true.
God is the model for relationship and He created us for relationship.
It is not good for the man to be alone. Gen 2:18
We were created to be social beings, not islands. We were made with a need for friends and the desire to enjoy warm, healthy and lasting friendships with others. The fundamental issue that hinders friendships is of course the sin that separates from God and from each other. The Gospel wonderfully reconciles us to God and one another. We have seen how Jesus beautifully models friendship. He is a friend of sinners, continually eating with tax collectors and sinners. He is the one who says of His disciples,
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called your friends… John 15:15
Friendship thus became a glorious hallmark of the early church, who were devoted to fellowship. Jesus promise’ By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35) was so thoroughly obvious to the Jewish historian Josephus, that he wrote “See how these Christians love one another.”
There are levels of friendship. Jesus was friendly to the crowd, knew the 72 better, had 12 close followers, 3 inner circle and John his closest friend. At the bottom of the scale of friendships is “no friends at all” –Jesus experienced that when he was rejected in the lead up to the cross. Jesus promises to be a friend like no other, God promises to never leave you or forsake you. Then there are acquaintances – Liam at the garage, Simon in the coffee shop – people I say hello to regularly! Good friends are the ones you know their birthday (correction my wife does!) Jesus picked the twelve “he desired” (Mark3:13) to be good friends. Really good friends are like Peter, James and John, for Jesus, that He took with him to the mount of transfiguration. These are the friends you look forward to spending an evening with and would drop everything to help solve a middle of the night crisis. Finally there are intimate friends – John describes himself as the disciple that Jesus loved.
How are your friendships doing? God is interested in you and that area of your life and would love to help you if it is a struggle. Ask Him and pop into a local Church this Sunday if you don’t normally.
The Gateway Church
Excerpted from “Friends, Food and the Gospel”