I just lectured in my OT survey classes about some of the ways we were created in the image of God. God made us to need and enjoy others. God himself exists in Trinity, a perfect friendship. He offers himself to us in friendship (Psalm 25:14). We too need friends. Friends come to us as acquaintances, associates, neighbors, relatives, and very close friends. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar researched the limit of our capacity for friends. He determined that we can only maintain about 150 human relationships at one time. Among those friends, we typically only have about 3-5 very close friendships, best friends.
As a discipline, a spiritual friendship is a relationship that helps us love God with our whole being. In such a friendship, two people agree to enter into a covenant relationship where the two friends share their relationship with God with one another by supporting one another, encouraging one another, and praying with and for one another. While some friendships seem to just happen, a spiritual friendship is intentional so each can help the other grow in the Lord. Usually a spiritual friend is someone of your gender. The ancient Celtic Christians referred to these friendships as soul friends, someone who cares as much for your soul as they care for their own.
How can you find and develop a spiritual friendship?
- Start with prayer. Ask the Lord to show you someone who might be a spiritual friendship. Then wait and watch.
- Take an inventory of your friendships. What levels of relationships do you experience with friends?
- Don’t rush a friendship. Cultivate a friendship in the way a farmer might cultivate a field.
- Talk to your close friends about this practice. One of them might be interested in a spiritual friendship.
- Once you connect to a spiritual friend, work together to develop a covenant. A covenant would have a handful of guidelines for your friendship. This covenant is a mutual effort and forms a mutual commitment. The covenant will likely mention a few items like meeting times, prayer commitments, and confidentiality.
- Be real, be honest, and above all, be kind.
- None of us will ever be a perfect friend for another, but Jesus is our example of the perfect friend.
- When you have the opportunity, teach others about spiritual friendship.
I think of the song from Toy Story with the lyrics by Randy Newman that say, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” I remember that old hymn, “There’s Not a Friend Like the Lowly Jesus.” Jesus is a friend who heals us, knows our struggles, guides us, is holy and humble, and is near us at all times. No night is so dark that he will not cheer us because he will never forsake us. Let’s be such friends for someone.
Scripture: Read Proverbs 27:6, 9-10. What ideas in these proverbs might apply to the spiritual discipline of friendship?
Dig Deeper: Read Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun.
Now It’s Your Turn: What do you think is the most important characteristic of a spiritual friendship? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.