Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Yes Friends (Revised)

I've been teaching on friendship recently, which has reminded me of the incredible importance of friendship. So I've adapted this chapter from The Time for Yes, and reposted it. Let me know what you think!

I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.
Paul to his friend Philemon (Philemon 7)
Jesus put it so well: “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Can I add something similar? “Where our friends are, there will our hearts be also.”
This brings me to a question: What does Scripture lead us to understand makes good friendships? I’m teaching a class at Bidwell Presbyterian on Christian relationships. So I’ve been thinking about this topic quite a bit and particularly the people I like to call “yes friends.”

Three key elements of “yes friends” find their way into the biblical book of Proverbs. First of all, we need friends to give us support and advice: “Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 15:22). If it’s true for a nation, I'm pretty confident it works for individuals. In fact, a somewhat recent survey (from 2006) found that one in four Americans doesn't have anyone to confide in. That to me is the definition of a lonely life. And that's why we need “yes friends.”

These “yes friends” give us encouragement in their counsel: They affirm what we may not see in ourselves. They celebrate our victories. And they stand by and encourage even when we’re not perfect. They grant us freedom to fail. “Some friends play at friendship, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

      Secondly—and on the other hand—these “yes friends” aren’t “yes men” (as the phrase goes)—those who will just tell us everything’s ok. Biblically, they are called  “flatterer” and don’t fare too well in Proverbs. Who wants to be told “all is well” right before the tornado arrives? Who wants compliments when a personality course correction is what’s needed? “Whoever rebukes a person will afterward find more favor than one who flatters with the tongue” (Proverbs 28:23).

      Though not a Christian—for one thing, he lived before the New Testament or Jesus existed—the philosopher Aristotle had some pretty good things to say about friendship. He philosophized that friendship isn’t just about people we like or have things to offer us, but that friends seek the Good together. Paul wrote rather rhapsodically, about four hundred years later, and yet in agreement with Aristotle: love “does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Still one more reason that flatterers make us feel giddy for a while, but also prove to be pathetic companions.

Finally and most importantly, our friendship—or intimate community—begins to define us, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). We become whom we hang out with.

When we get in the company of those who support our deepest yearnings and passions, we come to our truest selves. There we realize our dreams, the important dreams, our “yeses”—the ones God put in our hearts, the ones where passion meets mission. 
That’s why I want yes friends.