Have you ever thought about the difference between friendliness and friendship? Lots of people are willing to be friendly and welcoming, especially to newcomers at church. Indeed, sometimes people are specially trained in being friendly, – how to smile, how to put warmth into your voice, relax your face and make eye contact, or to sound open and encouraging in your phone manner.
But sometimes, we get so good at being friendly that we forget about friendship. Friendliness can sometimes be switched on and off. It’s good for the time we are saying hello or talking to a customer on the phone in our job, but that’s it. Once we’re done being friendly, we turn away and forget about the person we have shown our friendliness to.
Friendship is a long-haul relationship with others. Friendship has to weather storms, to keep the relationship going in times of crisis and sorrow. Friendship has depth and sometimes suffering attached to it. Being not just friendly but a true friend carries cost. It’s not for nothing that Jesus says we should lay down our lives for our friends. Friendship can transform us and make us into people we perhaps did not expect to be. What would it take all of us to ‘be more friend’?
Jonathan Bryan, a non-verbal person who communicates using his eyes as pointers to spell words, writes about the importance of friendship:
‘Faith, family and friends – these three sum up all that is most important to me. Central to my life is my faith in Jesus and knowing that this life is not the end, spending time with others as we journey through the Christian life together is one of the highlights of my week. Enveloped in the love of my family, home is my sanctuary and my joy with my two younger sisters and our dog. At 16 years old my friends and I like very similar things – playing pool, aeroplanes, music and baking. Sharing banter in the corridor at school is also a favourite pastime.
But if you met me in the street, you wouldn’t know any of these things, instead you would notice a small boy in a wheelchair, unable to speak.’
He goes on to write about the blessing of friendship:
‘Following a grand opening in the summer, JB’s Gentleman’s Club was established, and members, by invitation only, don jackets (I recently purchased an oversize brown ‘jacket of shame’ from a charity shop should anyone forget theirs), eat together and play pool. It’s a bit of fun, but also provides a social context to get together. And through it I’ve been reminded of what friendship looks like. During our December meet up my friend Mik dialled in from his trip to see family in India; it was 1.30am and he was wearing the jacket he had packed specially. For my birthday my friend Alaric wrote and performed a poem with 17 memories for 17 years. It was the best present.
Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day and I’m reminded not just of the 2 examples above, but of many other occasions where people have thought of me and its meant more than its weight in gold: my initials in shells on Rushy Bay Beach; a video message from friends at a conference I couldn’t attend yesterday; an email saying my story has made a difference for a non-verbal pupil. How can you bless someone today?’
Some ideas to ponder:
- What does friendliness mean to you? How important is friendliness at the start of getting to know someone?
- What does friendship mean to you? Who do you think are your true friends and what makes them so?
- What does Jesus say about friendship? What would seeing friendship as a spiritual discipline mean for you?
- Jonathan Bryan talks about the blessing of friendship. Who could you bless with friendship and acts of kindness?
- How can you ‘be more friend’? What ONE thing could you do to be a true friend to someone else?
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