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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Reflecting on Friendship

The subject of spiritual friendship has been dear to my heart for a number of years, though I have only recently become aware of the term. God, in his mercy, has blessed me with a number of friendships over the years which have allowed me to grow in Christ. These friends have challenged me in my faith, wrestled with God alongside me, exchanged books, confessed sins, and shared all the highs and lows of life together.

Several of the strongest friendships I have today were developed in high school. It was when I graduated from middle school at one Christian school and transferred to another for high school that I met my best friend. We shared the same birthday (February 1, 1994), shared the same favorite band (Switchfoot), and played guitar. As a result of these early bonds, we became quick friends and also discovered we shared similar wrestlings with faith, though he always knew how to be more honest about it than me. We were always sharing books and songs as we learned and grew in our faith. He started dating a girl I had known since Kindergarten, and she easily became a similar friend (they have since been married).

In college, he and I roomed together for three years and shared even more of our lives together. Also during our college years, we each made other friends whom we invited into a prayer group. The group still meets weekly to share what is going on in our lives and pray for one another. I rely on these friends heavily through texts during the week and staying in their homes on weekends while I am interning in Philadelphia (I currently still live in South Jersey).

With this group of friends, I have experienced what Dietrich Bonhoeffer described: "Now our brother stands in Christ’s stead. Before him I need no longer to dissemble. Before him alone in the whole world I dare to be the sinner that I am; here the truth of Jesus Christ and his mercy rules. Christ became our Brother in order to help us. Through him our brother has become Christ for us in the power and authority of the commission Christ has given to him. Our brother stands before us as the sign of the truth and the grace of God." [1]

In this community, I have been able to confess my deepest struggles with sin and have heard the deepest struggles with sin others have faced, while witnessing the love of Christ expressed in our reactions to one another’s confessions.

Such relationships were far easier to maintain while in college when all parties lived in close proximity to each other. As we all graduated within a span of a year and a half, there was a time our relationships felt tenuous. We were all beginning new careers or continuing our education at other institutions. Many were getting married. We had good intentions of maintaining our relationships, but don’t we all know of friend groups which have dissipated after graduation because of differing circumstances? Hadn’t we all experienced such dissipations after graduating from high school? Would we succumb to the danger Wesley Hill describes? “Friendship often finds itself in danger of being eclipsed by the brightness of our commitment to our nuclear families [2]”? The good news was Thursday evenings at 7:00 was already blocked off on our calendars and graduation, marriage, and careers did not change that commitment. Some have not been as regular as they once were, but we still maintain a commitment to one another. The benefit of technology allows us all to touch base with one another regularly outside of in-person meetings. Finally, while the wives of these friends do not come to the prayer group, we all know one another and are all supportive of this community, which includes spouses and significant others. They allow their husbands to retain their commitments and add to our friend group. For me personally, several of these young families open their homes to me regularly on weekends and I am grateful for the hospitality they show to me.

If anything has served as a danger to my relationships, it is my hitherto unnoticed proclivity towards autonomy, which Wesley Hill also warns against: “If your deepest fulfillment is found in personal autonomy, then friendship-or at least the close kind I want to recommend in these pages-is more of a liability than an asset.” [3] While I do not believe I have an active commitment towards autonomy, I often act as if I can “go-it-alone”, as if I do not need others to assist me in bearing my burdens. Being required to rely on the hospitality of these friends each weekend has shown me my desire for autonomy and my need for the friends in my life. They have taught me how to rely on others, particularly Christ, how to be vulnerable before the Cross because of the way they accept my confessions, and how to delight in the goodness of creation through feasting together. I believe the best way to sum up my gratitude to them is by quoting Paul Wadell’s description of Christian friendship, which they have fulfilled in numerous ways: "Every friendship should make our world bigger, and Christian friendships should link us to the kingdom of God. Ultimately, the purpose of friendship in the church is not primarily our mutual edification, but to make us the kind of community that can faithfully enact God’s narrative of love, healing, and redemption in the world." [4]

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pp. 111-12

[2] Wesley Hill, Spiritual Friendship, p. 13.

[3] Ibid. p. 14.

[4] Paul Wadell, Becoming Friends, p. 118

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