Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: friendship (page 3 of 3)

A Few Thoughts on Friendship

Isn’t it funny how things just seem to come together in your life at different points in time to reinforce certain lessons in your mind? In my recent readings through 1 Samuel, I’ve been encouraged to think about friendship again.

David and Jonathan were friends. Fiercely loyal, loving, and dedicated to the good of the other, despite dire circumstances. They were immediately drawn to each other as men of kindred spirits, once Jonathan saw David slay Goliath. Both of them were men of valour and courage, whose love for each other remained loyal, even when it would have been easy to give up.

David reflected on the importance of friendship in Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.

David says, the one who is approved by God is the one who does not surround himself with bad influences. In other words, his friends are full of wise counsel and godliness, quick to speak the word of the Lord.

Last night at prayer meeting, we read Proverbs 1. There David’s son Solomon also reflects the importance of one’s friends in a similar way:

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, ‘Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; … we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse’–my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.

Again, this powerful truth is illustrated. The people you surround yourself with will influence you. Only the proud person thinks ‘I can hang out with whoever I want and I won’t be changed by them.’ That’s an unbiblical thought.

I was saddened a little while ago when I got to meet some friends of a friend of mine. His friends were spiritually (and otherwise) immature. Their conversation was godless and irreverent. I was saddened, because I was made to wonder what that said about my friend. Friendships and allegiances speak something about you, and they will inevitably influence you.

Friendships are important to God. In the New Testament James says that ‘friendship with the world is enmity with God.’

All that to say this: Are you intentional about your friendships? What types of people do you surround yourself with? Are you careful to seek out friends who will be an influence for good in your life rather than bad?

Are you deliberate in trying to be a good friend to those you are already friends with? Do you redeem conversations and turn them godward? 

A good friend is a good influence. Are you a good friend? Are you seeking them?

Love

I love our church. So does my pastor. A while ago he posted 34 things he loves about our church.

One Sunday night, when the weather was nice and the service had been over for more than an hour, and people were still hanging around talking to each other outside (because those of us responsible for locking the building had kicked them out), I began to wonder to myself if a church could ever get to a place where her people love each other too much.

I suppose in one sense, that could happen. If our love for each other ever superseded our love for Christ himself, or if our delight was in people, rather than in the God whose image is displayed in those people.

But when I thought about it more, the silliness of such a thought became apparent rather quickly. One can never love another person too much. No one could ever love more than Christ has loved (since this is how we know what love is) and clearly, Christ did not love too much.

But that got me to thinking that I needed a clearer definition of love. You see, when we think of love for another, we think of something which could supersede our delight in Christ, or something which could be taken too far, so that it is not in the other person’s best interest. But really, at that point, it’s not love at all… it’s selfish delight in another person for the gratification of my own fleshly desires for entertainment or companionship or a sense of belonging or whatever else.

So here’s the working definition of love that I came up with to help me evaluate whether I’m really loving someone, or whether I’m just having nice thoughts about them for my own benefit.

Love is

that affection or passion which motivates me to pursue another’s ultimate good, regardless of the cost to myself. 

Feel free to comment on that, if you like. I’m hoping to elaborate on that some more in the days to come.

It’s a Wonderful Life

The end of the school semester is almost upon us. The end of 2006 is almost upon us.The season when people like to reflect on the year that was, and ponder their life in the year to come is just beginning.

As I was getting ready for bed last night I got to thinking… I have been so incredibly blessed. In so many ways I’ve received infinitely (and that’s not even exaggerating a little bit) better than what I have deserved.

I have been blessed with the chance to be in a church that is dedicated to teaching the Scriptures, attend a seminary that remains faithful to the word of God, and have friends who are faithful to expound the Bible to me. In short, I seem to just go from one opportunity to learn to another.

That’s it. That’s my life. Always learning, wherever I am. Here are some of the things I’ve been learning about lately:

  1. I’ve been learning about the glory of Christ from John Owen (Works, v.1).
  2. I’ve been learning about friendship from Esther Edwards Burr (from her letters to her friend Sarah Prince).
  3. I’ve been learning about parenthood from my one-month-old daughter (who, by the way, thinks I still have a lot to learn!)
  4. I’ve been learning about leadership from my pastor.
  5. I’ve been challenged in the areas of prayer and evangelism by one of my closest friends, Rielly.
  6. I’ve been encouraged to work harder and serve more by my always-loving, always working wife, Stacey.
  7. I’ve been learning lots about the nature of sin: why I need to hate it more, what it’s real goals with me are, and how to put it to death, from John Owen (Works, v.6). I’ve been going through this together with a couple of brothers from church every week.
  8. I’ve been challenged to love Christ more and to be more disciplined and more productive with my time through some accountability with my friend Josh.
  9. I’ve been learning tons about how to worship Jesus at Christmas-time from my dear friends, Bob Kauflin, Mark Altrogge, and co. at Sovereign Grace Ministries who have no idea how much they’ve blessed the saints through their various ministries.
  10. I’ve been learning about perseverance from my friend Darrin Brooker, who–believe it or not–has actually been a Sabres fan for a while now, and is still sane.

I could go on and on, but I won’t because I need to go to sleep.

Suffice it to say, God is good, and it’s a wonderful life.

Thoughts on Communion with God as Friendship

Thomas Goodwin offers these thoughts on communion with God as friendship, and how this concept should shape our devotional life. Do we serve out of duty or delight?

Mutual communion is the soul of all true friendship and a familiar converse with a friend hath the greatest sweetness in it … [so] besides the common tribute of daily worship you owe to [God], take occasion to come into his presence on purpose to have communion with him. This is truly friendly, for friendship is most maintained and kept up by visits; and these, the more free and less occasioned by urgent business … they are, the more friendly they are. … We use to check our friends with this upbraiding, You still [always] come when you have some business, but when will you come to see me? … When thou comest into his presence, be telling him still how well thou lovest him; labour to abound in expressions of that kind, than which … there is nothing more taking with the heart of any friend.

—–
As cited in JI Packer, A Quest for Godliness (Wheaton: Crossway, 1990), 208.

A Few Thoughts on Friendship

Friendship is a wonderful thing. Christian friendship is infinitely better. In fact, I think it would be correct to say that only Christians can experience true friendship.

From a biblical standpoint, one’s will and affections are ultimately rooted in his heart. If the heart of an individual is unregenerate, his only love is self-love; he only seeks his pleasure, his heart is proud, and he delights in evil. His will and affections, then, from whence friendship must flow are perverted.

But the heart of a Christian is different. The heart of a Christian is primarily oriented towards the worship and enjoyment of God. From this type of heart, friendship will simply be a partnership in achieving this goal. In other words, a friend is one who loves God by displaying God to me, that in our friendship I might see more of God and thus love God more. In our friendship, I will enjoy God to greater degrees than I had previously known, because I experience the life of God and the mercy and love of God in my friendship with another Christian.

It is at this point in particular (the theocentricity of friendship) where Augustine departed from philosophers who had come before him and had attempted to define true friendship. “While friendship by classical writers is described as a search together for beauty, truth, and wisdom, in Christian friendship, the search ultimately leads friends to the source who is Beauty, Wisdom, Truth, and Love.”[1] God being the ultimate object of all human desire is not a new theme to Augustine in the Confessions, but here it is introduced as the very basis of all Christian friendship: Helping one another pursue our Sovereign Joy.

Perhaps the most profound element of friendship in Augustine’s thought is the idea that in friendship, one will fulfil the twofold commandment. Augustine here adapts Cicero’s definition of friendship, which involved simply doing what is best for the other person, in a reciprocal relationship. “If God is seen as the highest good towards which everything must be directed and if all love must focus on God before all else for it to be truly Christian, friendship among Christians gains a new perspective.”[2] For Augustine then, you are loving God and loving another as yourself by helping him to love God, which is his greatest good, which in turn he will do for you, as this is your greatest wish for yourself as well. Friendship for friendship’s sake—even friendship for the other person’s sake—is no longer in view at all in Augustine’s thought.

This friendship which is centred entirely on God and his goodness benefits all involved by helping them to gain a clearer vision of him. “Sage has observed that the anima una ‘est pour S.Augustin, à partir de 407, l’énigme et le miroir par excellence où il nous est donné dès ici-bas à comprendre, comme nous le pouvons, le mystère de Dieu’.”[3] To Augustine, the most valuable friend in the world is the one who can best reveal God to him and push him to pursue God. In short, “Augustine thinks of friendship as beginning, continuing and ending in God—friendship is participation in the life of God.”[4]

Augustine never reached the goal of friendship he desired in this life, because what he desired was none other than God himself, and the pure unadulterated fellowship with fellow humans which flowed out of that. “His ideal was no earthly society but a heavenly community of mutually loving members of the City of God (described as ‘a perfectly ordered and perfectly harmonious fellowship in the enjoyment of God and a mutual fellowship in God’) and only here would men be able to know one another completely and to form a perfect intimacy, as friends aimed to do.”[5] But that day has now come for Augustine, and will soon come for us. The lesson for us in the meantime is to pursue God and to pursue friendships in which we can push others in their pursuit of God and find ourselves encouraged as well—and to do so with all the strength and vigour that Augustine did.

For more on this, see here.


[1] Edward C. Sellner, “Like a Kindling Fire: Meanings of Friendship in the Life and Writings of Augustine,” Spirituality Today (Fall 1991, v.43.3), pp 24-257. Also available online at http://www.spiritualitytoday.org/spir2day/91433sellner.html.


[2]
Carolinne White, Christian Friendship in the Fourth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 197.

[3] As quoted in White, Christian Friendship, 210.

[4] “Ten Augustinian Values: An Introduction.” Available online at http://www.angfrayle.net/values/value9.html.

[5] White, Christian Friendship, 205.

Augustine on Friendship

Since Augustine has been consuming much of my thought lately, I thought I’d let him consume my blog as well. Augustine was a man who was never alone, but always surrounded by friends. Why? It wasn’t by accident. Friendship helped Augustine to worship and live for and ultimately enjoy God better. Here are some of the concluding thoughts from a recent paper I wrote on Augustine’s theology of friendship.

This community of companions (“all my friends and relations” ) that travelled with Augustine was altogether with one heart pursuing God and challenging each other to pursue him as well. This is effective friendship, since “a man will not imitate any but his friends.” Augustine sees this in the very creation, where each was made according to its own kind; so it is friendship, that each of us will become like our friends. In this way friends can spur each other on to a more godly life. This was the desperate hope and goal of friendship for Augustine: “My soul, tell this to the souls that you love. Let them weep in this valley of tears, and so take them with you to God. For if, as you speak, the flame of charity burns in you, it is by his Spirit that you tell them this.”

Yet perhaps the most profound element of friendship in Augustine’s thought is the idea that in friendship, one will fulfil the twofold commandment. Augustine here adapts Cicero’s definition of friendship, which involved simply doing what is best for the other person, in a reciprocal relationship. “If God is seen as the highest good towards which everything must be directed and if all love must focus on God before all else for it to be truly Christian, friendship among Christians gains a new perspective.” For Augustine then, you are loving God and loving another as yourself by helping him to love God, which is his greatest good, which in turn he will do for you, as this is your greatest wish for yourself as well. Friendship for friendship’s sake—even friendship for the other person’s sake—is no longer in view at all in Augustine’s thought.

This friendship which is centred entirely on God and his goodness benefits all involved by helping them to gain a clearer vision of him. “Sage has observed that the anima una ‘est pour S.Augustin, à partir de 407, l’énigme et le miroir par excellence où il nous est donné dès ici-bas à comprendre, comme nous le pouvons, le mystère de Dieu’.” To Augustine, the most valuable friend in the world is the one who can best reveal God to him and push him to pursue God. In short, “Augustine thinks of friendship as beginning, continuing and ending in God—friendship is participation in the life of God.”

Augustine on Delighting in God in his Creation

From the Confessions, Book IV, chapter 12.

If the things of the world delight you, praise God for them but turn your love away from them and give it to their Maker, so that in the things that please you you may not displease him. If your delight is in souls, love them in God, because they too are frail and stand firm only when they cling to him. If they do not, they go their own way and are lost. Love them, then, in him and draw as many with you to him as you can. Tell them, ‘He is the one we should love. He made the world and he stays close to it.’ For when he made the world he did not go away and leave it. By him it was created and in him it exists. Where we taste the truth, God is there. He is in our very inmost hearts, but our hearts have strayed from him. Think well on it, unbelieving hearts (Is 46.8) and cling to him who made you. Stand with him and you shall not fall; rest in him and peace shall be yours. What snags and pitfalls lie before you? Where do your steps lead you? The good things which you love are all from God, but they are good and sweet only as long as they are used to do his will. They will rightly turn bitter if God is spurned and the things that come from him are wrongly loved.

You can read the Confessions online for free here.

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