Our friendships determine the quality of life we lead. This may sound overly dramatic, but pause for a moment and ask: “In life’s deepest troubles what enabled me to endure?” For many people, it wasn’t a tool, technique, or principle, but a relational connection that empowered them to preserve.
In the Beginning…Friendship
Have you ever reflected on the relationship of the Trinity as a friendship? The Triune God lives in an eternal perfect symbiotic loving relationship. Every good aspect of human love we encounter in this life is but a dim flicker of the intensity of the source from which it derives its essence. This includes friendship, for friendship is an expression of divine love. The Triune God’s relationship within himself cannot be reduced to merely a friendship—it is certainly much more than friendship—but it does include friendship.
But this begs the question, what exactly is friendship?
According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, there are a variety of Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as “friend.” The idea of friendship involves “three components: association, loyalty, and affection.”
Friends voluntarily associate with one another, which creates a sense of belonging to each other. The intensity of that sense of belonging is determined however, by the sense of loyalty and affection present in the relationship. Loyalty is the commitment to do good to the other no matter the cost. Affection is the emotional bond that moves a person toward the other for their good. Each of these qualities—association, loyalty, and affection—constitute the idea behind biblical friendship. Friends belong to one another. They loyally commit themselves to one another, allow themselves to be emotionally moved by one another.
In the book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice, we read about two fighter pilots who forged an unlikely friendship. Jesse Brown was the US Navy’s first African American pilot and Thomas Hudner. While Jesse was flying on a mission his plane was shot down behind enemy lines in North Korea. His friend, Thomas Hudner, intentionally crashed his plane in freezing cold temperatures in an attempt to rescue Jesse from the burning plane. Although Thomas ultimately was not able to rescue Jesse, it nonetheless is a powerful image of friendship. Someone willing to sacrificially not count the cost of his own life in order to save the life of his friend.
This story captures a snapshot of what Jesus was describing when he said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Yet, the kind of friendship Jesus was describing was not an abstract philosophical exercise, but an intensely personal definition of his own life and mission. Jesus came to reestablish friendship between humans and God (Romans 5:11). Jesus, like Thomas Hudner, intentionally “crashed” the plane in a rescue operation. Although the difference is that he fully knew it would result in his death in order for the operation to succeed. Yet it was this cost he paid voluntarily.
If it is true that our greatest friendships are found in those who sacrifice freely on our behalf, then look no further than Jesus. Turn your attention to the Redeemer who voluntarily chose to lay his life down. In Christ we see each aspect of biblical friendship displayed beautifully. He associated himself with us willingly and is unashamed to call his family (Hebrews 2:11). He was loyally committed to us even at the cost of his own life (John 10:11,15,18). He genuinely is moved with affection for us and cares (Hebrews 4:15). This is the friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus is the true friend that perfectly embodies every aspect of true friendship.
Walking with Friends
We created Redemption Walk to point people to this True Friend amidst life’s troubles. Seeing the Redeemer as friend also enables us to experience friendships with one another too. We live out our friendship with Jesus while walking with friends in redemptive community.
Walking with friends means inhabiting their lives, stories, and experiences, not because you have to, but because you want to. Walking with friends means allowing yourself to be moved by their longings, desires, tears, and joys because you are alongside them. Walking with friends means opening up the hardest most unlovable parts of our hearts to the penetrating gaze of another. To walk with friends means to decidedly choose to reject giving into the fear of being rejected, betrayed, or abandoned. Instead, you choose to risk, commit, and trust your heart to another. Ironically in this very act you not only make yourself extraordinarily exposed to the potential for pain, you also open up the floodgates to joyful connection.
Only in the giving of our hearts away freely can one find the energy to spend love extravagantly. We hope this podcast will enable you to be strengthened to walk alongside your friends. Because friendship is the stuff of Jesus’ kingdom.
Click play to listen to a two-minute introduction to Redemption Walk.