The world is struggling with racial tension, religion, immorality, abuse, and equality. Friendship in Christ can address them all.
Much has been written over the last 500 years about how we are saved by grace alone. However, I fear that many well-meaning Christians are still trying to earn their stripes in Christ’s army, longing for success and significance among the believers. This striving, after we have freely received salvation, threatens not only the fruit we bear, but the very witness we bear upon the kingdom of heaven.
There may be no greater verse for the striving Christian than, ‘You can do nothing apart from me’ (John 15:5). This statement from Jesus to his disciples shakes the core of every Christian trying to earn their salvation, to prove their standing in the church, or to earn God’s approval through their efforts. The entire upper room discourse found in John 13-17 should ground our egos and focus our missional efforts.
So how does Jesus suggest we labour with him to bear eternal fruit? One simple step is friendship. Jesus said that friendship is foundational to our gospel and gospel work.
Do you see your life and ministry in terms of friendship with Christ? This is summarized in the image of abiding (John 15:1-8). Without abiding in Jesus, we are not bearing his fruit. If we are abiding, we are called to walk with him in his mission to redeem his people, and this makes us his missional friend (John 15:9-17).
Are we walking in friendship with those around us? Jesus said to ‘love each other as I have loved you’ (John 15:12) and ‘greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15:13). And finally, ‘the world will know you are my disciples by the way that you love’ (John 13:35). When we put these together, it is clear friendship is at the heart of love, missional activity, unity, and our witness.
Missional Friendships: Jesus’ Design for Fruitful Life and Ministry by CJ Davison
For such a basic topic, there seems to be limited discussion around it. Why should we give this more attention now? The world is struggling with racial tension, religion, immorality, abuse, and equality. I think friendship in Christ can address them all.
Friends come together around what they love. The world cannot understand friendship as we do, for it does not have a unifying vision or the love of God to bind it. Christians have the most exciting work on earth, fuelled by his Spirit and compelled by his love. How could we not develop world-changing friendships? This, I believe, is how we will finish bringing the gospel of the kingdom to all nations.
Let me leave you with three practical implications for Christian leaders:
- We cannot lead others without first experiencing friendship and intimacy with God.
- We cannot lead in isolation or we risk building our own kingdoms.
- We cannot make programs and processes more important than the people who make them happen or for whom they are intended to serve.