Dear West – 31 January 2019

Dear West Family

The last week or so has had me thinking about friendship a lot. I turned 40 last Thursday, and was overwhelmed by messages of love and acts of kind friendship from near and far. Perhaps, as you get older, people are more ready to say nice things because, you know, who knows how long you have left, but I was shown such deep love by a variety of people.

I did the ugly man cry when my wife showed me a collection of video messages of friends from back in South Africa. I have known many of them for 30 years or more, and so as I watched video after video, I was overwhelmed that God would give me such good friends. Then people arrived at my house for a surprise party, and after my initial shock and desire to run away or to start a small fire, I sat and looked around my table and thanked God for new friends who I have only known for a short time but who are very encouraging to me. This continued through the weekend as people came to the house and some friends even sat in the rain in Round Rock to watch rugby with me. Sitting in the rain in Round Rock is pretty much a biblical definition of sacrificial friendship. No one does that, unless they are motivated by love, and in fact it may have been the one thing that even Meatloaf wasn’t prepared to do, but these friends did.

It got me thinking. Friendship is a powerful thing, and while I know that I am blessed in the friendship that I have received and not everyone would have that as their story, Christians ought to be known by the kind of friendship that they give. Genuine friendship ought to mark us as communities of people. I confess that I forget this all too often, but as I enter into my next decade of life I am making a simple commitment to be a good friend to people.

There are two biblical passages that I want to use to shape this. The one is from John 15:13 where Jesus says that there is no greater display of love than a person who lays down their life for their friends. This is obviously preemptive and predictive of what Jesus is going to do for us not long after he says that, but it speaks of the sacrifice that loving friendship requires. Christian friendships lay things down for the betterment of others.

The other biblical passage on friendship that I love is the interaction between Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 23:16. It says that Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God. What a beautiful image! In the midst of deep despair in both of their lives, Jonathan sees his role as making sure that David’s grip is firm in God’s hand. The most important thing he can do as a friend is to strengthen David’s faith. What a friend he was.

So, with that in mind, what if we prayerfully asked two questions and let God start a friendship revolution in our midst through the answers?

How can I sacrifice some of my own comfort to be a good friend to someone who needs it?

Who around me needs strengthening in their walk with God and how can I do that?

I want to be a friend who has his eyes open to the needs of those around me. Who can I strengthen, encourage and serve?

CS Lewis famously said that friendship is unnecessary, but that is something that brings virtue and beauty to the world, like art  or philosophy. In an increasingly lonely world, let’s be good friends.

See you Sunday.

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