Finding, making and keeping friends is important. The importance of a friends on our social life is understood but perhaps we have not noticed the impact of friends on our faith life. In the recent book Friendfluence, author Calin Flora notes that friendships play a powerful role in all areas of our life, but their influence is often unappreciated. The book compiles wonderful, surprising data on the relation between friends and loneliness, depression, delinquency and emotional well-being. Contrary to what we hope will occur when we are past our teenage years of peer pressure, the book reveals that friends influence us throughout our lifetime. No matter if you are a child moving to a new school or an adult who suddenly finds himself widowed, companionship is vital.
The original twelve disciples followed Jesus as teacher, but they became friends as they demonstrated the love he showed them. (John 15:15) Looking at the original twelve friends, we might breathe a sigh of relief that these first friends were sometimes argumentative, competitive and overall imperfect. We may be amazed that the Lord chose ordinary people to be his followers. We may be impressed that such complicated relationships would be equipped by God’s grace to start a religious and spiritual revolution.
Starting in January, our congregation will delve into a series of sermons called “Friends for the Journey” that explores the backstory of these twelve followers who became friends. Before the series, most of us may not hardly recall all of their names. Like any group of friends, we will get to know their unique personalities, their family history and their sometimes quirky dispositions. We will notice their similarities and differences. We will marvel at how Jesus could have ever expected this diverse group to function as friends, let alone be the foundation of His Church!
By the end of the series, you will know them real persons with a history and a story of faith that impacted the spread of Christianity far and wide. You may even call them “friends.”
The call of friendship of the original disciples echoes our call to be companions in Christ for great purposes. It begins with the call to a relationship with Jesus and grows to a call to companionship for a journey as disciples. We might be inspired to live after their example. We might awaken to our pledge of church membership; to surround each other with the steadfast love, to place Christ at the center of our lives and grow in faith together.
“Walk in Faith. Find a Friend for the Journey.” Sounds like a motto to appeal to those seeking personal fulfillment. Perhaps, at first, it is. Perhaps the first disciples followed in hopes of self-satisfaction. Yet, in the end, the result is God perfectly designed Christ-centered friendships to the greatest agent for the transformation of the world.