Friendship: the emotions or conduct of being friends; the state of being friends. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
This past week, I was having coffee with a young adult who is on the verge of graduating college and already has plans for a season of mission work for 2 years on the other side of the world. We were talking about what life looks like in the transitions and new opportunities. The topic of friendship came up and how it is crucial for him now and in the future.
I’m not so sure we emphasize enough the importance of true Biblical friendship today. Sure, we encourage young adults to have community, to get connected, and to reach out to the crowds of their community. However, do we focus enough on what being a good friend looks like in a culture of busy schedules, endless social media posts, and a lack of commitment to anything that may take time? How do we help young adults understand the importance of friendship? Are we emphasizing how friendships can be a significant source of hope in their walk with Jesus?
The writer of Proverbs says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time” (Proverbs 17:17, CSB).
Young adults may have multiple “crowds” that they associate with at various times in their life. While having lots of “friends,” they often find themselves lonely because very few of their relationships have much depth. And, to be honest, it’s not just young adults who are struggling in this area. Loneliness permeates our culture among all generations—and some of that stems from not knowing how to friend well today!
Here are three areas where we can help young adults when it comes to understanding true Biblical friendship:
- Friendship requires intentionality.
It’s easy to make excuses like, “I’m just too busy” or “I’ll spend time with them when it’s a little more convenient.” Lasting friendships are ones that have seen lots of intentionality poured into them. It takes sacrifice to make sure that good friendships are fostered and grown.
Jesus spent a significant amount of time with 12 genuinely good friends who just so happened to be called His disciples. He was intentional in spending time with them after a long day of walking among the crowds. I can only imagine the conversations that happened around a campfire in the evening among Jesus and his friends. The beauty of the intentionality behind those friendships is what I don’t want us to miss.
Intentionality looks different today in some respects. It may mean sending a text to a friend when they come to our mind. It may mean setting aside time for coffee once a week for a good heart-to-heart. The key is that time has been given to make sure the friendship grows.
- Authentic friendships are built when we’re willing to let our guards down.
Most of the time, we want everyone to think that everything is “fine” in our lives. Letting the guards down so that honesty can prevail in conversation is a key that many friendships lack today. Surface conversations and meaningless debates tend to be the extent of many relationships in our culture. Being willing to be vulnerable and let the guards down so that a friendship can go to a deeper level is often never reached.
It takes time for us to trust someone to the extent that we are willing to let our guards down. However, we must be willing to step into that opportunity so that a friendship can be one that is built upon trust and honesty. A friend like that is a friend who will last a lifetime.
Paul reminds us in Galatians, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
- Respect and forgiveness are two attitudes that have significant power in a friendship.
Friendships that flourish have two qualities that make them different from other relationships. The respect that we have for our friends for “who” they are and “who” God has made them to be is a key element to building upon those friendships. True friends speak that truth over each other as they see how God is working in their friends’ lives. We can’t simply tell a friend what they “want” to hear, but because we respect each other, we tell them what is truth, which is gathered from God’s Word. Respect among friends even when differences emerge allows a friendship to continue to grow.
True friendship also gives us the opportunity to practice forgiveness. When people journey together, they are bound to have conflict and disagreements. The opportunity to practice forgiveness (sometimes numerous times) helps us understand how forgiveness is the key to freedom.
As young adult ministry leaders, we can model for them what it means to be a good friend and to VALUE the gift of friendship. They need to hear us talk about it and live it out in front of them. Let’s start friending in ways that honor to the Lord and gives relevance to the beauty of friendship.
Mark Whitt is a collegiate minister with Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Connect with Mark via Twitter.