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Friendship

Friendship is a loaded concept. This past week I've been challenged by the parameters that I place on this kind of relationship when compared to what I see in Scripture. Last Sunday, the sermon looked at the fact Jesus referred to us as friends and Ty pointed out the conditional nature of that friendship as Jesus said, "You are My friends if you do what I command you" (John 14:15 HCSB). Living in covenant with my God means that I am walking in friendship with my Creator, Redeemer, and King. In our culture we embrace labels and often apply them to ourselves and others as the definition of identity. When I think of Jesus, I don't connect our friendship to His identity. He is, "I AM" and I relate to Him as a friend when I follow His life giving instructions. That got me thinking about my other friendships. Do I identify people by the level or kind of relationship they have with me? The Bible shows friendship to be a covenantal relationship yet I usually only apply that interpersonal commitment to marriage. 

Allow me to take a moment to talk about covenant because I believe we do not talk about it enough. A covenant relationship is easiest to understand in contrast with a contract or agreement. In the latter, if either part breaks the terms then the agreement is broken. In a covenant, if either party fails to do their part then the other party is still compelled to uphold their commitment. Only God is faithful enough to enter into a trustworthy covenant. Understanding this, in order for a covenant to be made between two of God's people there is a third party that must brought into the equation. God, as our ultimate authority, serves as the basis for the relationship and holds both people accountable to the covenant that they have made in His name. This is easy to think about in terms of marriage but the Bible shows this reality in friendship as well. For example Jonathan said to David, "Go in the assurance the two of us pledged in the name of the Lord when we said: The Lord will be a witness between you and me and between my offspring and your offspring forever" (1 Sam. 20:42). This is an incredibly weighty commitment that is declared out loud and it has nothing to do with marriage. These two referred to their covenant on a few occasions and it bound them together through times of victory and turmoil. The assurance of covenant is the bedrock of true friendship.

Do I dare accept this challenge? What would it take for me to go to a friend and declare, "With God as my witness I am bound to you in friendship" and why haven't I done it yet? Do I only view friendship as a seasonal agreement that can be broken off at any time or are there people with whom I could make a covenant? I have no doubt that my friendships in Christ have a depth and joy that was previously unknown to me but I have not put this understanding into words. I would certainly remember if I proclaimed God as the witness to my commitment as a friend. What kind of strength would that add to a long-term relationship?  The biblical precedent here is one of abundant blessing, encouragement, and security. Anyway, I keep thinking that this is something that would be worthy of making a comeback in Kingdom culture. That kind of commitment should not go unsaid. Friendship should be a loaded concept.

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