The Dancing Puritan

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Warmth of Friendship

We know that we need friends and that we need to be friendly.

Yet we also want to be alone. Some of us imagine that we would do just fine as a hermit with no strings, no attachments and no expectations from anyone. We dream of living as a free-bird flying high and singing only to music that we have written. We imagine such freedom as the good life.

It is a lie.  Hermithood is appealing but untrue.

Solomon displayed God given wisdom, seasoned by the years, when he wrote:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Friendship brings encouragement, warmness and strength.  Two are better than one.

Why do we avoid two and opt for one?  Why settle for two when three is even better?  Why choose woe rather than reward?  Why choose to be frigid when you can be warm?  Why settle for weakness when you can be strong?  It does not make sense.  But we chose weakness when we stay home instead of going to church. We imagine sleep or a movie might be better for us than being with people.

Why do we decline the dinner invitation or fail to offer one?  Why do we mostly choose our privacy over interaction with others?

It is really simple.  We are selfish and we do not believe the truth. We think that we are wiser than Solomon and more knowledgeable than God.  We choose what we imagine might be good for us and fail to embrace that which the Bible says is good for us.

It is possible to fall off of the horse on either side. The social butterfly, who is always flying from home, has fallen. The butterfly needs to land and drink nectar rather than always fluttering around.  The Mystic misses the mark by constantly withdrawing to the mountain to pray and contemplate.  I am reminded of the rather simple lyrics from an early Amy Grant song.

...And I'd
Love to live on a mountain top,
Fellowshipping with the Lord.
I'd love to stand on a mountain top,
'Cause I love to feel my spirit

But I've got to come down
From the mountain top
To the people in the valley below;
They'll never know
That they can go
To the mountain of the Lord.
Amy Grant: Mountain Top

It is a simple but profound biblical truth that we need one another. We need the warmth, security and strength of friendships. We need table-talk, long walks and soul-stirring conversation. We need someone trustworthy to share our worst heresies and darkest struggles with. We need someone to grab us and shake us back into reality and hug us back to hope. 

Laughter alone brings sweet relief 
but laughter shared gives a lift beneath

This talk about friendship might lead you to imagine that friendship is a savior for lost souls.Nothing could be further from the truth. Friendship was wrecked beyond human repair in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve fell from sweet fellowship with God and one another.They chose to break God's command. They went from being God's friend to being his enemy and they went to war with one another. We are their children.

But God was and is merciful.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (Romans 5:10).

The Apostle Paul wrote that verse.  He knew what he was talking about. He had been an enemy with God.  By God's grace he had been reconciled to God.  God made Paul and God makes all who believe in Jesus his friends.

Through reconciliation with God friendship is restored.  It is still broken but now it can be redeemed.  Now, by grace, two can walk together.  Two can provide warmth.  And three can find strength.  Only through Christ.

Friendship with God makes possible friendships that encourage, warm and strengthen.

Why choose anything less?