Equip Book Club Celebrates Thirty Years of Matthias Media
True Friendship by Vaughn Roberts
Friendship seems to be a hot topic. My Facebook feed has posts about being a better friend, how to develop authentic and meaningful friendships, how to beat loneliness and more. Just this morning I saw one called “The Art and Science of Friendship”. We’ve all felt that desire to be known and valued by others, to have good friends. But despite technology enabling us to stay connected more easily than at any other time in history, a Red Cross survey last Christmas found 1 in 4 people experience loneliness as a regular part of their daily lives, and in Lifeline’s Loneliness Survey in 2016, 80% of responders said they think loneliness in society is increasing. Loneliness doesn’t discriminate, you can feel lonely no matter if you’re rich or poor, male or female, married or single, young or old, extrovert or introvert. This is worrying, and should make us think about what it means to be friends, how we approach being friends with others, and what the Bible says about friendship.
Vaughan Roberts' book, “True Friendship” is a really helpful, short book on the subject. He sets out to show that friendship is not an optional extra in the Christian life, but rather friendship is a critical part of our God given humanity and a reflection of being made new in Christ. “God’s plan of salvation is designed not only to restore our vertical relationship with God, but also to create horizontal relationships of loving friendship between human beings in his family. He calls us to himself, not as individuals, but as members of a new community. Deep relationships can, and should, develop as we grow together in the church into the likeness of Christ, and serve together in mission” (p16).
After setting out the gospel foundations for friendship, Roberts spends quite a bit of time in the book of Proverbs. I hadn’t realised just how much Proverbs has to say about friendship and being a good friend until I read this book, it’s everywhere! Roberts summarises what Proverbs, and the rest of the Bible say about friendship, into 4 categories:
1. True friendship is close: we need to develop friendships that go beyond the superficial. There are many challenges to this, so we need to be discerning and deliberate in the friendships we seek to cultivate.
2. True friendship is constant: friendships take effort to maintain, but it’s worth it. Some practical ways to help this are to be selective, be open, be interested, be committed in both the joys and struggles of life.
3. True friendship is candid: we can be tempted to put up a façade and not let people see how things are really going in our lives, but having good friendships provides the space for accountability, rebuke, and encouragement.
4. True friendship is careful: our words are powerful, and so we need to use them to build others up, and be careful of hypocrisy and gossip. It’s also important that our friendships don’t lead into emotional dependency, which can be unhelpful too.
At the end of each chapter Roberts includes a set of reflection and discussion questions, which I found quite challenging. Who do I have in my life who will speak hard truths to me? What can I be doing to make sure my church is really a family, so that nobody feels isolated? What more can I be doing to cultivate spiritual friendships? These questions have remained with me since reading the book, and been fuel for my prayers.
This is a beneficial book for any Christian to read. It’s important that we have true, deep, real friendships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Friends who will help us grow in our maturity in Christ, as we spur each other on until the Lord Jesus returns. Although it’s written to Christians, I think it would still be a good one to recommend to non-Christian friends too. The way Christians care for each other often stands us out among other communities, and can be very attractive to people who yearn for that connection with others too. I pray more would come to know Jesus as they see the way his followers sacrificially care for each other.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. – Proverbs 17:17
Sources: Red Cross Loneliness Survey 2017, Lifeline Loneliness Survey 2016
Meet Sarah Cameron
I love to read, but don’t get much time to at the moment with 3 kids under 3 years old. I’m thankful to be part of the St Barnabas Anglican Church Fairfield and Bossley Park church family, where my husband Gus is an Assistant Minister. Not originally from the South West, our free time is spent exploring the local area, experiencing new foods and getting to know people from different backgrounds.