2018: The Year of…
I’m deeply concerned about the diminution of a very important word. It’s been absconded by social media. It’s been destroyed by politics and the media. It’s been lost in our closed-off neighborhoods. It’s absent in many business settings. It’s missing in far too many Christian ministry and church circles. It’s simply gone in too many places and it needs to be recovered once more.
The word I’m referring to isn’t just a word, it’s a defining concept for relationships of all stripes: for families, churches, communities, businesses, and our wider world. It’s more than six letters combined to form the word, it’s actually central to the core of our being and the meaningful state of our souls. It impacts our walk with God, our self-awareness, our interactions with others, our community involvement, and our service to others. It’s beyond ourselves but it’s also about ourselves.
The word I’m referring to is “friendship” and in 2018 I’d like to invite you to join me in reclaiming the word in a fresh, new, life-giving way. It belongs to us as spiritual men and women, young and old, and it’s key to our walk with God. In fact, Jesus calls us “friends” and invites us to be “friends” with one another and who, when we bear fruit together, bear fruit that lasts.
Without being friends, we may in fact produce fruit, but not necessarily fruit that endures. When we treat each other as “servants” without first being “friends” we may have a functional relationship that works toward goals, objectives, and numbers, but without being “friends”first and foremost our collective efforts may be evidenced solely for prideful reasons. We certainly don’t readily admit that our efforts are toward self-defining ends, but without friendship with God and one another we may in fact lose the greatest opportunity of all: bearing fruit that lasts!
In John 15, Jesus makes it clear: abide in him as he abides in us…receive his loving friendship…love one another as friends…bear fruit that lasts. It’s not very complicated; it’s actually crystal clear. And yet, as I’ve experienced personally and have observed in so many other venues, the concept of friendship can far too easily be relegated off to the periphery, or it can be completely ignored, and then powering over others gets undue center stage. Spiritual leaders pay close attention to the strength, health, and oneness of their team of friends.
And so, I hereby wish to declare 2018 “The Year of Friendship: With God, Others, and Self” and invite you to make the same declaration. It will be good for your soul, your relationship with God, and your delight to be spiritually healthy friends with other friends of Jesus who seek to love one another and bear lasting fruit for the Kingdom.
Over the coming weeks I will be devoting my blog to the subject of spiritual friendship…friendship that’s different from others who claim friendship but who do so without God in the center. However, when God is given his rightful place among friends of Jesus, there is a marked difference…one that the world and yes, even the Christian community, needs now more than ever.
Join me in this pilgrimage; invite others to join us too; and let’s see how God informs our hearts, minds, souls, and our friendships accordingly. Let’s make 2018 “The Year of Friendship!”
At the outset…as you reflect on your role as “friend” ask yourself this question: How do my initiatives and responses to my friends make Jesus smile? We will return to this question often in the coming weeks.
Behold Jesus, the One who calls you his beloved friend. Believe the priority of loving friendship for all of life. Belong to the community of friends of Jesus who delight in bearing fruit that lasts. Become renewed by the gifts of friendship received and offered in Jesus’ name.