Mark Driscoll will join D.A. Carson, Matt Chandler, and others to teach June 3-4 in San Jose at Church Planter: Igniting a Gospel-Centered Mission for the Church, a conference which The Gospel Coalition is excited to co-host with Acts 29 and the NorCal Network. Anyone who wants to see more people meet Jesus is encouraged to attend.
Yesterday, The Acts 29 Network began Mark’s three-part series. In part one, he outlined “relationship lanes” for understanding levels of friendship. Today he continues by defining friendship and “friendshift.” This is part two of a three-part series.
First, we need a working definition of what a friend is. A friend is a trustworthy peer with whom we mutually choose to lovingly live by pursuing intentionally, giving privileged access, and serving for God’s glory and their good.
Second, in light of my definition of friendship, we do not have many true friends. There are people with whom we do not choose to do life but are simply in our life (e.g., family, coworkers, neighbors, classmates); those who are not godly, trustworthy, or loving; those who are not peers (both those ahead of and behind us in maturity and life lessons); those to whom we do not give privileged access though they give us privileged access (e.g., deep dark secrets, cell phone number, private email, welcome into one’s home) and those with whom our lives happen to intersect but there is no intentionality to live life together.
Third, the word friendship is too often used for relationships that are not friendships. This can lead to unreasonable expectations and someone being hurt and disappointed. Therefore, the word friend needs to be used carefully.
Fourth, a friend can be and often is in more than one lane, so these distinctions are not mutually exclusive. Still, if the relationship is not defined, then most people simply assume they are a friend, which causes complications. Exacerbating this is the fact that the word is common in social networking, so that a person can have hundreds and thousands of “friends” (e.g., on Facebook).
Fifth, Proverbs is concerned with us both being and seeking good friends, and so we must keep both in mind. Those who only seek friends without seeking to be a good friend are selfishly needy and demanding. And those who only want to be a good friend but do not wisely seek good friends are bound to be taken advantage of, abused, and neglected, and suffer from their foolish friend choices.
Sixth, life invariably includes friendshift, which is when a relationship changes from a friendship to something more or less. This can happen when, for example, life stage changes (e.g., a marriage or child or death), beliefs change, church attendance changes, there is unresolved sin, or someone relocates and is no longer living nearby. These can be difficult times to navigate and people need to talk and work through them as best they can. For a pastor, this includes the painful times when someone leaves the church under bad circumstances but they (or more often their wife) want to keep their friendship with the pastor (or his wife). The answer is no, and if you have fear-of-man issues they will run you over and over and over.
Seventh, we are to be friendly toward all but only friends with a few. As a pastor, this is a vital distinction. Simply because we are friendly toward dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people does not mean they should each expect a piece of our birthday cake and a seat at our house for Christmas.
Eighth, we only have a few true friends. A real friendship takes so much time, energy, emotion, and sometimes even money, that we can only have a few true friendships. Our nearest and dearest friend after Jesus is to be our spouse. After that, we may only have one or two truly close friends, as that is all we can handle. This explains why Jesus had only three close friends (Peter, James, and John), despite having a working relationship with the other disciples as well as fans numbering the tens of thousands who wanted to be his friend. Such people chose Jesus, but he never chose them as his friends or gave them the access he did the three.
Stay tuned for the final installment of “The Pastor and His Wife Get to Pick Their Own Friends.” Part three, published tomorrow at The Acts 29 Network, looks at various kinds of friends as outlined in the Bible.