Is having friends important in the body of Christ? To me, there is no one like a brother or sister in Christ who understands the deep fellowship I have with God. There’s a deep connection between us. Some of my best friends are Christians who get me, compared with other good friends who don’t really understand that deep part of me.
Christian friends can become as close to us like family and I believe that it’s important to nurture those Christian friendships. Of course, at times, as with any family, there can be relational issues.
On the upside, I believe it’s important for spiritual growth to be accountable, hold others accountable, be stretched and stretch within this family of brothers and sisters. On the downside, we can be sensitive within the church environment and get hurt and hurt others because, as in any family, there are imperfect people trying hard to do life, just like ourselves. But if hurt does happen or if offences are taken, can we move past these and grow through them?
Years ago, people that I called good friends in my local church and in my small group, who were themselves new small group leaders that I had raised, had a problem with me and my style of leadership. As a group, they went to the senior pastor to discuss the issues, who then called me in. I was devastated and felt betrayed. Now as I look back during that hard time I grew enormously in my dependence on God, as I had to learn to forgive and release others from my own judgement.
I wonder if you’re reading this and remembering a time that was painful for you in church life. Like me, perhaps it took a while, or you still may be in the process. What I had to do eventually, was to forgive, release them, repent for my own sin (obviously I had areas that needed pruning), renounce divisive spirits (Matthew 16:19) and then be restored personally and relationally.
The enemy will use the church to keep people inactive but God uses these same troubles, calamities, catastrophes, both inside and outside the church for our good. Romans 8: 28 became my life verse around that time as I kept declaring and eventually believing that God was working it all out for my good.
‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’ (NKJV)
He did work things out and some of those people are still really good friends.
When things do go wrong between others in your church family, perhaps like me, you can remember this—His will be done, so let Him do the refining-through-the-fire work on you and the others involved.
Here are some Scriptures (paraphrased), to help you, in case you need to release others and forgive them:
1 Corinthians 13:5 is about love keeping no record of wrongs — ouch, this is a toughie right?
Colossians 3:13 says for us to forgive, if you have grievances, as we have to bear with one another — yikes! Must we Lord?
1 Corinthians 3:9 is about the fact that we are God’s fellow workers and together as a body we are building the church for Him — yep true!
So going forward, Church people — are they our friends or our family? It’s often joked that we can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family. I think it's probably true in our church family too. So let's do our best to love them, as we're all an imperfect bunch of people, doing our best in a fallen world. I will try to support those who need support, love those that need love and forgive those who need forgiveness. That way, hopefully, I will receive the same grace too.
What about you?