Developing a Biblical Theology of Friendship


Frank Viola in his book, From Eternity to Here, states:

“I cannot fully know Christ on my own. Neither can you. I must know Him through His body. I must know Him through my sisters and brothers. And so do you. But in order for us to know Christ through the other members of His body, we have to get close to them. Christian community is God’s answer to that requirement.

“Therefore, when we deal with a brother and sister in Christ, we are not merely dealing with another human being. We are dealing with the parts of Jesus Christ. We are handling Christ. We are handling the members of Christ. For they have been made a part of Him.
“Put differently, when we look into the eyes of a fellow Christian, we meet the gaze of Jesus Christ Himself.
“The Corinthian Christians lost sight of this. So it was easy for them to sin against one another without any thought. Paul’s solution was to remind them that sinning against one another is sinning against Christ Himself, for they are inseparable from their Lord.” [page 264]

Here I am wondering about what defines friendship. I have pondered it over a couple of days now, and through the crucible of a fractured friendship. I look with perplexity at how some Christians seem to have so many internal issues, that they are not only relationally challenged, but are outright dysfunctional. Of course this is not limited only to Christians, but people in general. People in society form friendships through a common identification or affiliation or a shared interest, such as hobbies, sports teams, special interests, and community service, and other like minded activities. I well remember some of my earliest friendships as a kid involved the common interest in playing marbles and in playing cowboys and indians. Each day I hung out with specific friends to either play marbles or to play cowboys and indians or wargames. That is what we held in common.

When I grew older, it was other interests that lead to connections with particular people. It was hobbies, sports, joining the army, which lead to other kinds of friendships. Each workplace gave opportunity for new friendships and relationships. Each interest gives opportunity for connections and relationships with people. The latest activity and interest is my volunteer work with the Waterloo Region Literacy Group, which has lead to new friendships and relationships.

Some Christians identify with a group and their common interests, which usually hangs on a statement of belief or creed, or some kind of ministry or service activity. Some other Christians, while believing that what you believe is important, however they place more value and trust in the person of Jesus, and their relationship in Him and with others, rather than on a creedal formulation of human invention.

I find the words of Jesus significant and important when it comes to how He views us. He looks to us as friends rather than as servants [John 15:14-15]. When reading much of the New Testament teaching of Jesus, and the epistles, one finds much about relationships between people, and general conduct and ethics. Just a random sampling on how Christians ought to conduct their relationships illustrates how important it is for people to work out issues between them.

It is not only the loving of each other but the working out of issues that needs to be the ongoing basis of friendship. It takes work to have mutually satisfying and fulfilling and honorable relationships. Too often our own issues lie beneath the surface, and causes us to “cut and run” on relationships, and to hide behind other things that can cloud and hide what is truly going on in our lives.

We were not designed to live in isolation but in community and relationship. That demands building trust and integrity as relationships deepen. When issues and conflict arise, it reveals the depth of commitment that exists. It is sad that often, people would rather walk away than work out issues of conflict and division. Pride, hurt, other factors like loss of employment, debt, pressure or stress, all these can lie beneath the surface and only become exposed as the pressure increases and reveals the true source to the fractured relationship.

Christians need to develop a theology of friendship that sees within it the need for friendship with God and with people. That recognizes the need for accountability and transparency, and not only a sense of belonging and community. Too often we believe the masks that people wear, and believe the things they say without truly knowing their hearts. It is at times of great stress that character is revealed. Trial and adversity do not develop character, but it certainly exposes it.

Frank Viola states:

“Therefore, when we deal with a brother and sister in Christ, we are not merely dealing with another human being. We are dealing with the parts of Jesus Christ. We are handling Christ. We are handling the members of Christ. For they have been made a part of Him.
“Put differently, when we look into the eyes of a fellow Christian, we meet the gaze of Jesus Christ Himself.
“The Corinthian Christians lost sight of this. So it was easy for them to sin against one another without any thought. Paul’s solution was to remind them that sinning against one another is sinning against Christ Himself, for they are inseparable from their Lord.” [page 264]


What kinds of friendships do you have? When you examine them, especially as a Christian dealing with other Christians, do you see Christ in them? Do you recognize Christ in them and honour them in your dealings? Do you attempt to work things out, because Christ is in them?

It certainly is a sobering thought. It is all the more important to move in love, grace, compassion, understanding, and to work things out, for whatever the disagreements are, these are disagreements that divide Christ’s body. It is import to work things out, and to be reconciled. You don’t have to agree, but you certainly can walk together and seek to grow in Christ, in love and in grace. It is not what you believe that is the issue. It is how you live your life and in Whom you put your trust. He would desire that you would work out the issues and continue to walk in love and grace and peace.

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About Sam Buick

A lover and disciple of Jesus Christ. Married to my best friend, Lori-Anne. Father to 3 incredible daughters, Carragh, Caitlin and Erinn, and sons-in-law Alex, and Stephen Davis. An avid reader, a Droid user, a Mac addict, a lover of footy ball and football (there is a difference), and hockey. Once a soldier. Once a youth worker. Once an ordained minister. Once a claims adjuster. Once a charismatic, now a pacifist. A disciple of Christ, Gospel of grace proclaimer, pursuing union with Christ. There is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ. Jesus unites, dogma divides.
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