A few weeks ago I was procrastinating the laundry by scrolling through Twitter when I saw an interesting comment from another evangelical I follow. I’m not going to quote him precisely because over the years I have seen many evangelicals say similar things. In a nutshell, this is the common theme:
Everyone needs a friend who is a conservative and a friend who is a liberal, who you can lovingly debate and from whom you can learn.
Some people reading this are probably saying, “What’s wrong with that?” — which is actually what I thought for a number of years, too. To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with having friends who happen to liberal or happen to be conservative (or rich or poor, or blue- or white-collar, or whatever ethnicity). To be clear, I have friends who are both! But when I read this statement this time, I thought, “Need?” What do we really need?
If you’re a Christian, you ought to know that at this point. And perhaps you’re like me (especially if you’re a mom and you hear this song ALL. THE. TIME.) and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” is playing in your head right now.
What you need — what everyone needs — is Jesus. Yes, I am sorry to tell you, you need Jesus more than you need friends. Friends cannot be the propitiation for your sin. Friends may be able to point things out to you and help you grow, but only one Friend can change your heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Only one Friend can sanctify you. And without real change, sanctification, and atonement for sin — well, you can have the most well-rounded set of friends in the world and still be hell-bound. Not the ideal, I hope we can agree.
BUT, the good news is that even though all you need is Jesus, He came that you would have life and have it abundantly, and that means that He will provide you with fellowship beyond himself. In fact, scripture commands us to be in fellowship with other believers for mutual encouragement and provision. We call ourselves “brothers and sisters” — family. These are ties closer than friendship, and even biological family.
So, it seems to me that what we need, after Jesus, is friends who point us to Him. Rather than seeking to fill worldly affirmative-action-y quotas in our friendships, we need to seek out fellow believers with whom we can live out what Paul wrote to the Colossians:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against the other, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. — Colossians 3:12-17