Monday, March 20, 2006
Friendship and Church
Just to let you know: we are making some good friends here. We miss our friends in Australia. But we are making some new ones here in NYC.
The picture above is one of The Boy's new friends. Her mom (and dad) lives near us and her mom is having a great time with the Wife!
So this is good.
However, my thought for the day...
We were walking with someone about a month ago in Times Square, and we made the observation that our new church is small.
[But, interestingly, larger than the average American church - don't let the mega-churches fool you. We are at about 100 (+/-) people who we would consider regular. We are growing each year, and for that, I thank God.]
Anyway, our Times-square-walking-partner said: "That's a small church - and you are kind of stuck there - are you sure that you will be able to make any significant friends? Ones that you actually want to hang out with? Someone with common interests? People who are on your wavelength?"
I understand the question. It was harmless enough. Everyone wants to make a friend at church. No one wants to be friendless. People leave churches all the time saying: 'I tried to make friends and I didn't.' And it’s great when you have someone who you feel safe enough to confide in.
All this I get.
However, I just finished spending time in Ephesians. And it struck me that ‘friendship’ is not the unifying feature of church. Jesus’ blood is. So a necessary outcome of the gospel is this: that, in Christ, Jew and Gentile are friends and therefore learn to be friends. They do not go to church looking for a friend. They are friends already because of Jesus, and therefore this needs to be expressed.
I can imagine in the early church, a Jewish believer saying: ‘I hope that I can find a significant friend who is like me’. And I can imagine a Gentile believer saying: ‘I hope that I can find someone with whom I can have a bacon and cheese burger on Saturday afternoon.’
But for Paul, being in Christ means that you necessarily [and deliberately] spent time with people different to you: people who you might not have naturally been friends with. The Dividing Wall of Hostility has broken down, and in Christ the Jew and Gentile stand together with common access to God. And this therefore needs to be expressed in the Church.
Said here: Ephesians 2:11-22, which necessarily leads to here: Ephesians 4:1-6.
The upshot of this in my mind is this [at least this is the theory]:
When I come to Church, I do not go looking to find the person who is most like me. I look for the person most unlike me and learn to express the unity that already exists by our common access to the Father.
I don’t go to Christ’s church looking to make some friends.
I make friends because it is Christ’s church.
If you do this, you will of course surprise yourself by making some surprisingly good friends.
We have already.
Very Bonheoffer, without the eloquence.