Forming relationships with other people involves a lot of work. You must be ready to give sacrificially, let your guard down, be let down or be left behind. This is inevitable. This will happen. It is a part of life. However, there are some things that will enable you to form firm friendships that can potentially last a life time.
Over the years, I have noticed a common trend with the friendships that I have formed. Every single person that remains my close friend today can tell you that what I am about to share has been present in our interactions.
But before we get there, I want to mention briefly two types of relationships that people usually form:
1. Cause-Centered: This first relationship type fuels the fire at first but quickly wanes and falters because it is cause-centered. You befriended someone simply because you share an affinity for something. It might be a clothing style, a favorite food, a tech-gadget obsession, a vocation selection, a common school, a ministry project or your passion about particular events. There is nothing wrong with this per se. However, many of these things are temporal in nature and fleeting in character. Your sense of style will evolve. You will graduate and eventually go to a different school. You might become an Apple convert and shun all of your Windows friends. The point is that these types of friendships are built upon a sandy foundation that will wash away with the first storm. They are not grounded upon anything that can withstand the test of time.
2. Cross-Centered: This type of friendship is based on an affinity that will exist for eternity. You might disagree entirely about food, fanfare and how to have fun. But, you are firmly together when it comes to declaring Jesus as Lord and incarnating gospel principles into your life. Every test that your friendship may go through is looked at through the lens of the gospel. You are not in it because of selfish reasons, affinity or proximity. You both love Jesus and this is the concrete foundation upon which your friendship is built. Your style will evolve, you might switch schools or majors. But, these things do not impact or affect your friendship. The tie that binds you together cannot be easily broken. It is firmly fixed in place because Jesus is the common unifier in both of your lives.
How can you form firm friendships that are cross-centered? What specific elements need to be present in order for your relationships to withstand the test of time and weather the upcoming storms? What separates the cause and cross centered friendships? How come you are no longer friends with some people and absolutely cannot get enough of other people?
I cannot think of a more practical picture to illustrate the right answer than what I read written in Acts 2:42-47:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
In this passage, we see how the early church was engaged in fellowship and was able to form firm friendships with one another.
I can clearly see from my own personal experience that many of the things mentioned in this text are also visible in my life. This is the only reason why many of my long-standing friendships with people are still vibrant and active even to this day.
Here are five ways you can form firm friendships:
1. Share a meal, together. This point alone has brought me closer to people more so than any sermon I preached, any advice I have given or any event I have hosted. I have lunch with someone at least once a week. I get a one hour break for lunch. So, I try to use this time wisely and faithfully. Few things bring people closer together than sharing a meal together. Eating together is proven to deepen your relationship. Looking back at last week, I was pleasantly surprised at how often I was engaged in this. We shared a meal together with our small group. Later in the week, we shared a meal with our worship team. On Sunday, after the service, the whole church sat down and shared a meal together as well. It was absolutely phenomenal. Ask someone out to lunch today and start to form that firm friendship over your favorite food. It is a win-win situation.
2. Pray, together. This does not have to be an official prayer meeting. Just yesterday, before I sat down to eat, I asked the people with whom I was breaking bread with the following question: What prayer needs do you have so that I can pray for you? Just ask this simple question and pray for the other person. Pray with someone over the phone if you want. When people pray together, they tend to stay together as friends, more often than not.
3. Worship, together. This can happen in any number of different venues. Whether it is in your local church, at a Christian conference or in a small group bible study. The point is that you are doing this, together. This past summer, I went to a Christian conference with a group of young people from my church. The worship experience was epic. Singing In Christ Alone with the people I pray with, have lunch with and worship with, along with three thousand other like-minded believers – is permanently and pleasantly imprinted in my memory.
4. Sit under the teaching of God’s word, together. Something supernatural happens when you sit with people, listening to the preaching of God’s word — and you are in the same space, physically. When you are living life during the week, you are on the same diet of Scripture. I love it when during my weekly interactions, people bring up the Sunday sermon and how it has impacted their life. It is akin to a family coming together to hear the dad or mom speak wisdom into their life. That wisdom is then funneled through hearts and fuels the life during the entire week. Firm friendships are silently being formed when we sit together under the reforming word of God.
5. Fulfill the needs of one another, together. We live in an age of such sheer abundance that we may think everyone around us has everything they need. This is not entirely the case. A while back, my wife and I decided to dispose of two patio chairs that we were no longer using. We placed them beside the disposal unit in the designated area. A few weeks later, we are returning from an event to our home. As we pull in to park our car, we both glance at our neighbors patio that happens to be on the second floor, overlooking the parking area. To our pleasant surprise, we see our two patio chairs, standing there, being utilized. Apparently, the chairs were not as worn out as we thought. So the next time you are cleaning out your closet or going through your garage — be mindful of the people in your life — and see if you are able to share any of your possessions. Be of service to someone and remain humble enough to be served by others.
In all of the above ways, the common unifier is the concept of doing things together. Regardless of whether it is a short lunch, a cup of coffee or setting up chairs for the church service – do this together so that firm friendships can be formed.
If you want your friendships to outlast the passing trends, rally around your affinity with the second person of the trinity. You need to center your relationships around Jesus. This is the only foundation upon which your friendships will withstand the test of time.
Question: What specifically have you done in your life to form firm friendships? What is one piece of advice that you can offer when we are seeking to form firm friendships with other people?