As originally published in the July 25 & August 1 edition of The Adventurer.
Lately, I have been reflecting on the nature of friendship. I find friendship difficult. This is partly because of my personality and temperament; I am an introvert who loves to escape reality. Mostly, however, it is because sin makes me self-centered rather than other-centered. But God has been prompting me, through the Bible, to think about how the gospel shapes my friendships and how I can put the gospel at the center of my relationships with others.
Paul gives us an example of what gospel-centered friendship might look like in Philippians 1:3-11. In writing to the Philippians, Paul expresses his thanks to God whenever he remembers his friends in Philippi. In every prayer for them, he prays with joy. Why? Because of their partnership in the gospel. The word partnership here is elsewhere translated as fellowship, the same fellowship that we share with God (1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 13:13; 1 John 1:6).
We often think of fellowship as the time of socializing around coffee after a church service. But it has a much stronger sense than that. D.A. Carson writes, “The heart of true fellowship is self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision.” This fellowship could be about anything: business, sport, fashion, etc. There is nothing wrong with this kind of fellowship, but as brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a greater vision. Christian fellowship is a self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that, through him, God is reconciling all things. In Christ, not only are we being reconciled to God but also in our relationships with each other. So, I pray that you and I, by the power of the Spirit working within us, would put to death our self-centeredness and seek to put the gospel at the center of our friendships; that we would all the more encourage one another with the good news of Jesus Christ, so that our love for God and each other might abound more and more, as we wait for Jesus to return.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5