There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
Other than the covenant relationship between a husband and wife no other relationship has the potential to shape us and bring wholeness to our fragmented souls like that of friendship.
In fact, virtually all Christians find Jesus through a friend. If you don’t have friends that help you process the things you are learning about God—you will never become all you could be in as an apprentice of Christ.
This must be done face-to-face. A huge reason I don’t believe it is God’s will for Christians to stay at home on Sunday’s and watch their favorite T.V. preacher, as good as he or she might be, is that God never designed the Christian faith to be done exclusively in the privacy of your own home. We need each other to grow deeper with God. That can’t happen with T.V. Who will ask me questions about my soul? Who will hold me accountable for the truth I’m learning?
“We can no more go to God alone than go to the North Pole alone. If we want to go to God we must go with the people, even when they are playing guitars, singing stupid songs, and giving vacuous sermons. ~ Annie Dillard
God brings us to friend. How are you going to be the kind of transparent and vulnerable friend you need to be if you are scared of what they think of you? But if you have the ultimate friend who loves you no matter what—then you have the freedom to tell secrets. You don’t live and die for their approval—you have God’s!
Spiritual growth always and best happens in relationships.
Do you remember the story by 19th century author Mary Shelley called Frankenstein? Countless attempts have adapted the story to film. A few months ago I watched the end of the 1935 movie Bride of Frankenstein.
If you remember the premise of the story, a scientist named Frankenstein created a monster out of the body parts of various cadavers he had scavenged from morgues and graves. Eventually the monster comes to “life,” but it is so hideous and broken that he is frightening to the local community and is driven away out into the wilderness where monsters belong. Out in the wild the monster is seen stumbling through the woods having escaped the castle and comes upon a blind hermit who lives alone in a remote section of the forest. The monster is growling and grunting. He looks in the window of the blind hermit’s cottage and sees the guy on his knees praying to God, “Oh, God, please bring me a friend to alleviate my terrible loneliness.”
The monster crashes through the door roaring and, of course, the blind guy can’t see what he looks like—his hideous face—all the blind hermit knows is the low rumble of the growls of the monster. So unknowingly he says to the monster, “Oh, you must have an affliction, so do I. Perhaps we can be friends.”
And he starts to love the monster. He feeds him; he speaks kindly to him, makes things for him, and gives him some porridge. The monster doesn’t quite know what to do. He has never experienced the love of a friend before. And in this brief three-minute clip the monster smiles for the first time, he speaks for the first time…he starts to humanize.
Of course some hunters come along and see the monster and they try to kill it. In its panic the monster knocks over a lantern and starts the cottage on fire. People die…and the monster is back out in the dark woods, groping and growling, but every once in a while you recognize the word, “Friend? Friend?”
You know if we could visually depict our self-image it might look like a Frankenstein monster. We are a cobbled up, patchwork of personas received from all kinds of sources; a stitch here from our parents, a stitch there from our friends. Coaches and teachers and mass media—-the icons of our pop culture get adapted and we become a hideous expression of what the Creator originally had in mind. We are fragmented and incoherent.
As a result, we are lonely and afraid.
What you and I need is a friend who will come along and with the power of His love show us that we are loved. And not only that, we are forever safe in that love. We need a Friend whose love will completely overcome all of those other distorted images and give us a coherent, human face.
The 19th century Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said that on the cross Jesus through swollen eyes looked at the people who beat Him, mocked Him, spit on Him, cursed Him, and abandoned Him, and in the greatest act of friendship in the history of the world—He stayed on the cross.
Why did He do that? To humanize us.
…I have called you friends… John 15:15