the weblog of Alan Knox

When Christians miss their friends…

Posted by on Jun 23, 2007 in community, fellowship | 10 comments

A couple of days ago, some friends invited us to their home for dinner. Another brother joined us. I was excited to see him because I had not seen him in a few months. We had a wonderful dinner complete with a delicious smoothie – just the thing for a warm summer evening.

After dinner, as we talked about various subjects, our brother talked briefly about his life before he began following Christ. He talked about being a part of the clubbing and bar scenes. He said something very interesting. He said that he did not miss the drinking and dancing, but he did miss the friendships. He didn’t miss the particular friends that he hung out with at the clubs and bars. Instead, he missed having friends that he could just hang with… be himself with.

I’ve talked to many, many Christians who have come out of the club and bar scenes. Every one of them have told me the same thing as this brother. They miss the social aspect of their former lives.

As we were talking with this brother, we realized has twisted it was that unbelievers are better at socializing than believers. (I realize that this is a generalization. But, I think it holds in many, many cases.) Shouldn’t it be just the opposite? Since believers are connected to one another by the fellowship of the Spirit, shouldn’t we have a better sense of fellowship, community, and socialization than those who are not indwelled by the Spirit?

When Christians miss their friends… something is wrong. Perhaps we have become so busy doing things, that we have forgotten the people that God has placed us among. Perhaps we have forgotten that the Spirit in us drives us to love God and love others.

I don’t know the answer to this. I have seen it over and over again. I know that I have been part of several churches, and I am just beginning to understanding what it means to share my life with other believers. Before, I always shared programs and functional responsibilities. Now, God is teaching me how to share myself.

I also wonder if we have put such an emphasis on attendance that we have forgotten the purpose of gathering together in the first place: to encourage one another. Perhaps we have become so busy counting bodies in seats that we have failed to notice when someone attends without encouraging others and without being encouraged themselves.

When Christians miss their friends… something is wrong. And, too many Christians miss their friendships and socialization they had before Christ.


10 Comments

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  1. 6-24-2007

    Funny you should write this, because lately I have been feeling the same way. Brandon and I have some friends that we can be completely ourselves with – they’re about the only ones. They are Christians and they can also be themselves around us. The 4 of us talk about that a lot. The only other friends that we have that we can completely be ourselves with are those who we knew in our former life who have also since become Christians.

    I do miss our friends from our former life because it’s true – we could just hang out, no pressure to perform righteously. I have found myself lately missing seeing some of them, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. I think I now know. Thanks for the post :)

    ~Heather

  2. 6-24-2007

    Friendship is a tricky issue. I used to think I knew what it meant to be a good friend, and what it was like to have one. When I got married in May, my wife and I reflected during our honeymoon on who our friends are. We realized that an event like a wedding is an opportunity to see who your true friends really are.

    One friend in particular I had, he was one of my closer friends, but at my wedding he stayed right until the very end, and when I was about to leave, he started to weep, and told me that I had been the closest thing I ever had to a brother. It broke my heart, because at that point I realized that in him I had a true friend, one who I could really share my life with, and it was one that I had neglected more than I should. My wife and I also talked and realized that we had put more time and effort into friendships that probably weren’t worth it.

    True friendship, sharing your lives like you said, Alan, that’s really tough to find. But when you find it, you need to really treasure it. And yes, especially when people come to Christ and come and join our communities, how we desperately need to be those type of friends to them. I’ve seen it a few times where the church community has failed to do that, and that person has wandered back to where his real friends are.

  3. 6-24-2007

    Alan,
    Thank you for this post.

    One of my friends and I were talking about this the other night. It’s good to have friends that you can just hang out with, be real with and know that you aren’t being judged for every word or action. It’s not that these friends condone or totally ignore sins, it’s that they are slow to judge and quick to understand. They see us (and we see them) for who we are in Christ instead of for what we “act” like. They are willing to hold us accountable without it effecting our relationship. Just like Jesus.

    I don’t think we’re supposed to cut ourselves off from our friends once we get saved. We hurt several people by doing this and I’m working now to rekindle one of those friendships. Rather I think we’re supposed to be salt and light to them.

    One thing is for sure, the majority of our church friends were NOT unconditional friends that we could just hang out with. It seems that most of them were friends with us because of our level of service or the number of “things” we were doing. Even when we were “accepted” because of our performance, there never was a time that I felt I could just relax and hang out with most of them. And it wasn’t for a lack of effort, the walls just never came down.

    Again, great post Alan.

    Blessings…
    Brandon

  4. 6-24-2007

    Alan,
    Good post and thought provoking. It fit in well with what I preached this morning and some of what I’ll be preaching on tonight. So, I plan on referencing your post tonight. One of my points this morning was that in order for the church to impact the culture around us we need to be willing to mingle in the culture (preached from Acts 17). We need to keep those lost friends if we can, and make more!, so we can reach them.

  5. 6-24-2007

    Heather,

    Praise God for friends like yours! We also have some very close friends who love us unconditionally. I think it is unfortunate (and wrong) that some (many?) Christians do not have that kind of relationship with other beleivers.

    Jake,

    First, congratulations on your marriage! Also, thank you for sharing about the friend that stayed until the end, and for admitting your failings in that relationship. What an example for all of us! I think you are correct about new believers: they especially need friends who will love them unconditionally.

    Brandon,

    I agree that we should not encourage people to isolate themselves from their unbelieving friends. We talked about that also. We as the church must attempt to encourage people to maintain friendships with those outside the church. Interestingly, though, friendships with believers SHOULD be even closer… I wonder why they’re not?

    Chris,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. As I said to Brandon, I agree that we need to keep lost friends. We also need to encourage others to maintain lost friends. Of course, that means that the church activities and programs can’t fill every hour of their lives. And, we have to encourage believers to hang out with unbelievers where unbelievers like to hang out. But, I think its very important to maintain those relationships.

    -Alan

  6. 6-24-2007

    Alan,

    My heart is warmed as I read this latest contribution of yours, and the sentiments of those who have responded.

    As I see it, true friendship, is to be unconditional, but life has taught me the wisdom of Jesus’ words as he sent his disciples into the world, “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:14 ISV).

    Sadly, some of the wolves do wear sheep’s clothing.

    I trust I’m not appearing to be cynical, because I still believe that, from a personal perspective, friendship must be offered unconditionally, and innocently, BUT, not naively.

    I have learned, the hard way, that much prayerful wisdom must be exercised in the outworking of friendship, because the unconditional nature of true Christian friendship can be construed as weakness, and as a result, taken advantage of for the purpose of some kind of personal gain by the one befriended.

    I have felt responsible, at times, because we have sought to model, and teach unconditional friendships, when my wife and family, as well as precious brethren, have been deeply injured, as well as financially disadvantaged, by cultivating such.

    Maybe I’m just old and grumpy,but we do seem to forget that we are making friendships with sinners, inside and outside the community of believers.

    Our responses to their failures must be such that reflects the love of Christ to us, as well as His wisdom and innocence!

    “For wisdom is better than jewels; And all desirable things cannot compare with her. I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And I find knowledge and discretion.”(Prov. 8:11-12

  7. 6-24-2007

    Aussie John,

    Thanks for the comment and the warning. You’re absolutely correct that our friendships are between sinning people – which includes us, of course. I’m still amazed that “unbelieving” friends sometimes treat each other better than believing friends.

    -Alan

  8. 6-25-2007

    A pastor of mine from about 8 years ago used to comment on this. He asked things like, “why do you suppose people like to go to bars?”

    His generalized answer to his own question: “For fellowship.”

    Aside from the occasional “bar brawl,” for the most part people go to these places because they find common acceptance.

    When we come to Christ, it’s a very true reality that we’ve become seated in the heavenly places with Christ, but we seem to neglect the fact that in bodily form we’re still down here on earth with other people who need us and who we need.

    We’ve misplaced our emphasis, IMO, on “growing spiritually” through methods and instructional teachings, etc, and as you say Alan, we have such a focus on “doing things,” and we forget that we’re “beings” who simply need to “be.” And as we “be” with each other, and as Christ abides in us and we in Him, His life flows through the fellowship. Instead of us “making” fellowship happen, we “have” fellowship through Him and with each other.

    I also love what has been said here about our fellowship with unbelievers. It’s not that we try to get light to have things in common with darkness, but that the light only shines in the darkness when the light goes where the darkness is.

  9. 6-25-2007

    Just to clarify, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t “instruct.” :) Just that I think we’ve placed too strong of an emphasis on it, and we tend too forget to “be.”

  10. 6-25-2007

    Joel,

    Great comment! Thank you for putting so much thought into this. I’m learning that God puts the focus on people, so that’s where I’m focussing as well. It certainly leads me to change my priorities.

    -Alan