On the journey to grow closer to God, we need communities to bring us to Jesus, especially during our times of struggle or spiritual lethargy. These communities can be informal or formal communities like our family or structured church sharing groups respectively.
There lies the importance of building kingdom friendships rather than just friendships of utility or pleasure. Friendships of utility exist because the people involved are useful to each other in some way. Friendships of pleasure exist because we merely enjoy the company of the other. These friendships are not wrong but rather, they are superficial because they are not the divine friendships that God calls us to.
God calls us to establish friendships of goodness, where they exist based on the appreciation of the virtues and sheer goodness of the other.
How then do we build friendships of goodness?
- Christian friendships are authentic: We are free and comfortable to be who we truly are. There is no need to put up a facade and we are genuine in wanting to know more about them as a person. Most importantly, we do not have to behave in a particular manner so that they will like us.
- Christian friendships practise accountability: We keep each other in check about our faith life, our life at work or at school.
- Christ-centred: We speak truths with love, pray with and for each other, proclaim life-giving words into their lives and reconcile when conflicts arise.
- Establish boundaries of the heart: We are given the freedom to set clear personal emotional, physical and psychological boundaries and the other person respects these boundaries. Setting appropriate boundaries is not selfish because we are given the free will to say no to others.
It is a constant struggle to establish friendships of goodness because of the people we are obligated to interact with at work or at school. God does not call for us to stop interacting with people that we are unable to establish kingdom friendships with but rather, to love them just as He does so that they will come to experience the love of Christ through us.