Just how important are deep friendships on our Christian Journey? Clearly it is possible to get to Heaven without having close Christian friends, butthe journey to get there will bea lotmore enjoyablewith them. Most Christian movements have at their core Christian Community. Specific movements like Cursillo, Walk to Emmaus, Via de Christo, Kairos and others consider deep and authentic Christian friendships essential.
Throughout life, friendships come and go. People move in and out of our lives. We meet and make friends in many settings. Some people become friends because they live in the same neighborhood, went to the same college, like the same sports teams, grew up in the same town, work for the same employer, and ideally sometimes they are formed around a common love of Jesus Christ. Sometimes these friendships last over the years and sometimes they do not. I am sure that if you are like me, you can look back over the pages of your life and remember long forgotten friends who you have lost touch with and others who you have seemingly known and been close with forever.
Sadly, I encounter people at various retreats and speaking engagements as well as people who send me emailswho are wounded and saddened by the lack of close friendships. They are profoundly lonely and feel alone in the world. In today’s message I will be talking about Christ centeredfriendships, but before going any further can I ask you to pause for just a minute and say a prayer for all of the people who are without friends. Pray that as a result of your prayer, God will lead someone into their lives to be their friend.
Now I want to share part of my personal story. Today’s writing came about because I was sitting here realizing that January marked 16 years since I moved away from my dear friends in Ocala, Florida. My personal faith journey really came alive after I made a Cursillo weekend in the spring of 1988 in Orlando, Florida. At the time, I was living in Ocala, Florida. In the eleven years following this spiritual weekend I developed some of the strongest and deepest friendships of my lifetime. I developed many friends throughout all of central Florida but the deepest ones were with friends whom I attended church with or who I had experienced a Cursillo weekend with in Ocala or other couples there that my wife and I just drew close to because of their deep love of our Lord.
In today’s 4th Day Letter I will address 4 groups of friends. Allow me to take you on a quick trip down my memory lane. To start with there are the close friends that my wife and I met growing up in our home town at St. Paul’s Parish in Norwalk, Ohio, where we attended 12 years of Catholic school. Next there are close friends that my wife and I met through church and Cursillo from 1987 through 1998 in Florida. Next there are the many friends we met through Cursillo and Church from 1999 through 2007 in South Carolina and finally on this list are my many friends that we have met since that time through church and Cursillo in North Carolina.
On each occasion when we moved away we were deeply saddened to be leaving such close friends behind. We were worried about losing these deep friendships. In fact, what actually happened is that each move multiplied the number of close friends. We kept our existing friends each time we moved and added even more wherever we moved to. It is surely obvious to me that the common denominator in all of these groups of friends was our love for Jesus Christ. He alone is the glue that held these friendships together through the miles and through the years.
Sure it took time with each move to make new friends, but these new friendships were born out of our church and faith based activities. We shared the common bond of faith in Jesus Christ. The effort to build new relationships is absolutely worthwhile because Christ based friends can truly be friends forever…..in fact for eternity. Just how important are friends…..well Jesus said this in John 15:15 “I have called you friends.” If Jesus thinks friendships are important I do too.
All of you know that I am Catholic. The readership of 4th Day Letters is made up of both Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I have vowed to try to always write about things of faith that we mostly agree on. Today however, I want to quote from a book that is not in everyone’s Bible.
Sirach is a book in the Catholic Bible that does not appear in some other bibles. The Book of Sirach is part of what is considered the Apocrypha / Deuterocanonical scripture and appears in the Old Testament of Catholic Bibles. It is considered one of the “wisdom” books. Except for some Episcopal or Lutheran Bibles, Sirach and other books of the Apocrypha do not appear in Protestant Bibles.
I want to use a few verses from Sirach in this writing today. Can I ask my non-Catholic friends and readers to look for the wisdom contained in these verses just as you would look for the wisdom that is contained in any other Christian book you might pick up at a Christian bookstore? Here is what it says in Sirach 6: 5-17
“Pleasant speech multiplies friends,
and gracious lips, friendly greetings.
Let those who are friendly to you be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain friends, gain them through testing,
and do not be quick to trust them.
For there are friends when it suits them,
but they will not be around in time of trouble.
Another is a friend who turns into an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your disgrace.
Others are friends, table companions,
but they cannot be found in time of affliction.
When things go well, they are your other self,
and lord it over your servants.
If disaster comes upon you, they turn against you
and hide themselves.
Stay away from your enemies,
and be on guard with your friends.
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one finds a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price,
no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
those who fear God will find them.
Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship,
for as they are, so will their neighbors be.”
The three lines that I underlined are worth repeating. “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter.” “Faithful friends are beyond price.” “Faithful friends are life-saving medicine.” During this life when trouble surrounds us, and it inevitably will, we might need a “sturdy shelter” or we might need “life-saving medicine” and when we do we can find these in our Christ-based friends and that is why these friends are “beyond price.”
As I was wrapping up my writing for today my mind drifted to a song from the 1990s written by Michael Smith. Michael has said that this song was written for a friend who was moving out of town. Michael played it at a going away party for his friend and everyone cried. He has been singing it ever since. Click here to listen to Friends are Friends Forever.
If you already have close Christ-based friends, first of all consider yourself blessed and thank God, then maybe you can seek out ways to deepen these friendships. If you do not have a strong close knit group of Christian friends, make it a goal this year to seek out friends who share your love for God. Then commit time weekly to meet and discuss your faith. When we meet regularly with our friends to discuss our faith and our love for the Lord, not only will we draw closer to God, but we will draw closer to each other as well.
If you have some friends that you have not interacted with for a long period of time, take a moment and click this forward to a friend button and share this email with them and tell them again how important they are in your life.
One again let me repeat my request to pray for those who are lonely and without friends in this world. May God bless you all!
A friend is a friend at all times