by James Harvey
Friends are a special treasure. C.S. Lewis said that friendship is born “when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure or burden.” Lewis observes, “The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’ ”
My mother told me once when I was a child that if I had only one friend, I should consider myself blessed. And indeed, there is a special joy in feeling that someone knows you, understands you, and enjoys your company. In the natural realm, friendship is a common grace shared by all. Shared experiences and interests can lead to a warm and lasting resonance between two people.
Christians can be friends with unbelievers in the sense that Lewis describes. Such friendships can be a good thing too. But, believers should recognize that there is a unique spiritual basis for friendship between Christians that transcends what is possible with those who don’t know Christ. Christians don’t have some things in common; they have Someone in common. Their friendship with Jesus provides a spiritual basis for friendship with one another. For Jesus has said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Christian friendship is cultivated when two people share with one another how their common experience of Christ is manifested in their unique life experience as believers. They know that they are friends of Christ because He died for them (v. 13); friendship develops when they share with one another how God revealed this to them. They know that Jesus says they are His friends if they obey Him (v. 14); friendship is deepened when they safely share where they could use encouragement to follow Christ. Christians’ hearts are knit closer as they learn the story of the grace of God.
Christian friendship usually requires special initiative. Sometimes Christians are lonely in the body of Christ because they have not taken the initiative to open their hearts to one another about their shared experience of Christ. Too often our conversation doesn’t move beyond talk of news, work, recreation, or matters of health and family. Even when we talk about theology, we often don’t reflect openly about how we experience these truths in our lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way. When a few friends of Jesus begin to share their experience of Christ honestly with other Christians, the culture of fellowship can shift. The warmth and depth of Christian friendship begins to move to the foreground. The results are marvelous and life giving: “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”