I have a five-year-old son, who overuse the phrase, “____ is my best friend”. This was a problem for a few reasons, one being that if everyone is your best friend then no one really is. We obviously adore his enthusiasm and want to encourage his excitement and willingness to make friends, however, we didn’t want him to feel the need to qualify each friendship. My husband told him that it’s OK to have several really good friends.
There have been seasons in my life where I felt bad for having good or best friends. I was afraid it would hurt other people’s feelings that they didn’t make the cut -haha, which is prideful to assume everyone wants to be my friend anyway. I think church culture can wrongly and quickly label close friendships as cliques. I do think cliques exist and are a threat to Christian community, but we have this skewed view that if someone is close friends with someone else they don’t have the capacity or desire to have any other close friends. Jesus gave us people to walk through life with and we should not have to hide that.
We can always look to Jesus as our example, right? Jesus had twelve and three. We can freely embrace that we should have a few really close friends and a few more within our circle that we commonly invest in and spend time with. We were made for community and relationships. Jesus let those three men, Peter, James, and John, into spaces of his life and ministry that others did not get to see (Luke 9:28, Luke 8:51, Mark 14:33). He intentionally selected these three which means that others were not selected.
Jesus did not ignore the other nine disciples. They were still very much a part of his life every day. It’s only a clique if you never interact with other people or refuse to be friends with anyone else. Jesus was always welcoming and inviting to those around him. When we live out the gospel in friendship, we treat others like Jesus would have, regardless of the qualitative statement around what kind of friend they are. (best, good, inner circle, acquaintance, etc.). Jesus was concerned about the needs of others.
Here is why Jesus was the best kind of friend. He never walked into the room wondering if anyone ever knew he was there or cared about it. He thought about each person in the room and how he could help. Jesus was not upset that he didn’t get invited to the event but instead spent time with everyone else who did not get invited. Jesus was aware of everyone around him, not lost in thoughts of what he needed. He interceded on behalf of his friends for their good, not hoping to stay “ahead of them” in life.
Gospel friendship dictates that we forgive, assume the best of others, extend ourselves see beyond our own situation, and not rest our identity on these friendships. Friendships are a beautiful and gracious blessing from the Lord. The enemy delights in causing dissension among Christian friends. In 1 Corinthians 16:13, Paul commands us to be watchful and stand firm in the faith. Being watchful means that we look for weak spots and in faith. What are your heart and your friendships susceptible to? Take every thought captive (Ephesians 4:29) that is contrary to truth. We must be prayerful over our friendships, asking the Lord to protect the relationships and for eyes to see where we believe false things about our friendships.
May you be blessed with gospel friendships that point you to Jesus, walk with you in joyful times and times of sorrow, bring laughter and stretch your faith. In Jesus name, let it be.