by Rev. James Wong
According to the largest church growth research in the world by Christian A, Schwarz, one of the quality characteristics in growing churches is loving relationships. (This is printed in the front page of our weekly bulletin). The main reason why people stay in the church is because of good and meaningful relationships. This is the reason why it is so crucial to understand the importance of cultivating real friendship in the church. What are some of the traits of true Christian friendship?
1. Love Sacrificially. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Jesus is the finest example of a true friend. His love for us is sacrificial. He washed the disciples’ feet and asked us to follow his example of humble service to others and ultimately he laid down his life for us on the cross. We win true friendship only when we sacrifice our own comfort for the enrichment of others. True love does not ask what others should do for you but rather what you can do for others.
2. Accept Each Other. “Friends love through all kinds of weather.” (Proverbs 17:17 Msg), that is , both good and bad weather. Our best friends are those who know and accept our weaknesses and imperfections. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. If we are easily offended or hold on to grudges we will have a hard time making friends. Genuine friendship is quick to ask for forgiveness and ready to be forgiving. Jesus’ standard is to forgive seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:22).
3. Give Mutual Edification. “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6 (NIV). Genuine friends build each other up emotionally and spiritually and giving honest opinion. At times we also have to say the difficult things that our dearest friends need to hear because we care. We should welcome our friends’ honest comments or criticism because they may be the best antidote for us to rise above mediocrity. This is what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
Genuine friendship is a powerful witness for Christ. Let us be excited to get connected with someone. Can someone find a genuine friend in this church? Yes and no. You make the difference!