Chosen To Be Friends
In his fine little book, The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis says this about friendship:
In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
Friends have deep unity in agreement in about very significant things, and complete liberty and joy in diversity in other things. The deep unity in agreement is essential to the trust and vulnerability that is at the heart of friendship. When we are among people whom we fear, suspect or know to be in disagreement with us about Jesus Christ, the nature of the gospel of grace and the call of God on the church to holiness and righteousness – well, we tend to hold back; we can “get on” okay, but we feel we’re walking on eggshells. But when we do have this deep agreement – given by a share in the Holy Spirit who shows us the same truth about Christ and the gospel – then we can rejoice in, and grow from, the differences in all manner of other things: likes, dislikes, hobbies, politics, etc.
What is the deepest thing we have in agreement with other believers? This—we discover that we share a friend, the Friend, in common. Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners; Jesus Christ who gave his life not just for friends, but for enemies who through that sacrifice may become friends; Jesus Christ who inducts us into the eternal friendship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And in finding that one Friend in common, we find we have one story in common, that of redeeming grace.
This Trinitarian, gracious, redemptive basis for friendship means that friendship is the ultimate in all relationships – the goal to which they are all moving. Parents / children, husband / wife, boss / worker, neighbour / neighbour, pastor / congregation – all these relationships reach their goal more quickly when those involved recognise that they are each a species of the greater category or order which is friendship.