Victor is one of my most cherished friends. We have shared life together in celebration and fun, and we have walked together in times of trouble and suffering. Several years ago, Victor attended his first professional baseball game with me. It was a reciprocal gift for the day he shared the experience of attending a cricket tournament. He and his family have prayed over me and attended to me in their home when I was suffering from back pain. I attended to Victor when he suffered a heart attack – taking him to the hospital and then caring for him in our home for weeks during recovery. It’s somewhat telling that when one of us was at one of our weakest points in life, we found ourselves far away from our home in the care of our friend.
Victor and I have very different backgrounds. We come from very different cultures. We speak different languages, and we have had very different opportunities in life. But we are friends. This friendship between a brother in Christ from Pakistan and one from the USA has been growing since 2008. We were brought together through sports ministry, but really it was our shared friend, God, who made the introduction.
Why is being a friend so important?
“For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:10-11)
Being a friend is important because it is important to God. It is so important that God restored our friendship with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus. Being a friend is a redemptive act. It is an act of love. One of God’s greatest enjoyments in life is being in fellowship with His friends – discussing things together, thinking about one another, caring for one another, enjoying and participating in things together. Friendship, when covered in God’s grace, is life-giving and leads to emotional and spiritual health. When we are being a friend well, we provide a safe place for people to grow in kindness, patience, trust, forgiveness, faithfulness, and love. Each of us can probably identify a friend who has enriched our lives, made our lives more meaningful, more enjoyable.
What does friendship have to do with Giving?
I say again: being a friend is important because it is important to God. But what does it require of us to be a friend, or to restore a friendship? Every friendship at some point will be tested. It will stand or fall on the sacrifice of one for another. Someone has to make that critical decision to give something or to even suffer something for the sake of friendship. For example, someone you met for the first time asks you to come and join them in a sports ministry outreach. You buy an airplane ticket, travel 12 hours to a “strange” land, get on a van for another 20 hours, encounter “strange” foods and smells, and the whole time you give up any sense of normalcy. On the other hand, this new friend who has very little prepares a feast, inviting all his family members to join in celebrating and honoring his guest. He sleeps on the floor so that you can sleep on the one good bed in his home. And he is always translating on your behalf, no matter how exhausting this can be.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
In the big picture, God’s picture, friendship is a motivating factor for all kinds of demonstrations of love. God gave His only begotten son. Jesus laid down His life. The Holy Spirit gave us a new birth. All of the God-head in perfect unity gave so that we may be friends of God. Not only is God the best friend anyone could hope to have, but all that He pours into friendship is an expression of who He is. He expresses not only who He is, but who He has made us to be. We, who believe in God and put our faith in God, should do as He does, and we should be a committed friend to God and to one another.
Am I being a friend like my best friend?
I have many friends who I would not hesitate to share of my time, talents, and treasures. Sometimes I cannot give them what they need. At other times, the resources that God has asked me to steward are already set aside for other friends in need. But in most times, friendship motivates me to express love in some way to them, and as often as I can. My desire is that my giving aligns with and is motivated by the same things that motivates God. My hope is that my expression of friendship reflects that of God. After all, God has fashioned us to be His image bearers, to be a friend toward others as He has been a friend toward us.
When I give to a ministry that shares the Gospel among the least-reached, it’s my way of introducing others to God my friend. When I give to orphans or to free a woman from slavery, it’s my way of being a friend like my best friend who provides for me and sets me free. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not forget the joy and privilege it is to be called a friend of God.
“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.”
— Anthony Robbins