The Making of a Christian Friendship
What is the importance of Christian friendships?
Friendship is a theme all throughout Sacred Scripture. Jesus Himself had many friendships. He shared His life with His closes friends and lived amongst them. Jesus entrusted His friends to share the message of the Gospels to the world, so it is safe to say that friendships can be of grave importance in our walk with Christ.
God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle. In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal. - Saint Maximilian Kolbe
We live in a fallen world. Our walk with God is a challenge in this fallen world, but sweet friendships that are pleasing to God, can be a gift that make it easier. Just as we strive to live as witnesses of Christ, we also encounter friends that are a witness to Christ. God often works through friendships to bring us His healing, joy, and love.
Remembering that we live in a fallen world, just as God uses friendships as a gift the devil can also use friendship to discourage us, wound us, and draw us into sin. We are called to live our lives ordered towards God and that means within our friendships. We are called to be prudent in our choices of friendships, bring Christ into our friendships, and love our friends as Christ loves them.
How do we make prudent friendship choices?
Prudence (acting with or showing care and thought for the future) is a virtue that encompasses many parts of striving for Christ centered friendships. We are called to be prudent when choosing friends, defining what a friendship looks like, and how we live out friendships.
Firstly, we are called to be prudent in our choice of friends. We should be prudent in the intentions of the friendships we choose. As followers of Christ we may have outgrown friendships that are focused on worldly enjoyment, we may have outgrown friendships that don't draw us nearer to the Heart of Jesus. Does this mean that we should ditch all of our friends who aren't Christians, Catholics, or striving for sainthood? No. If we are friends with an loving all of God's children and remembering our own brokenness then we are going to love others in their brokenness.
What does mean for our non Christian, non Catholic, and non Christ centered friendships? Maybe that means bringing Christ into that friendship, as we are all called to share the Gospel with those we love. Maybe that means to gain a friend to invite us into a closer relationship with Jesus as we invite those friends who may not yet know Him. Maybe it means slowing those worldly centered friendship and loving and praying for your friends from a distance. What having a non Christ centered friendship will always mean, is your are called to pray for those friendships, to invite God into those friendships, pray about decisions made about that friendship, and showing those friends the love of Christ through your words and actions.
How do we bring Christ into our friendships?
The most fundamental way to bring Christ into our friendships is to pray for them. Letting God know the love we have for our friends and asking Him to let them know His love for them is the most essential part of inviting God into friendships.
No matter where our friends are at in their faith life, we are called to invite them into a closer relationship with Jesus. That sometimes means a literal invite. We may have friends who haven't been to mass before. We may have friends who have never been to adoration or confession. Invite them to the sacraments and to learn more about our Lord and the Catholic faith. Physically walk with them, go with them, bring them to mass, adoration, confession. Spiritually hold their hand as they have these new encounters with Christ.
Living in a fallen world, we are sure to have friends with wounds. Pray for those friends. Point them towards the only true healing they will find. Invite those friends into a life of prayer and walk with them as they enter into that.
How do we love our friends as Christ loves them?
As we walk with the Lord towards Heaven, we share that path with many. Just the same, they share that path with us. Just as our friends impact our faith, we impact theirs. So how to we become a good companion in the journey towards Heaven?
Just as the fundamental of all things in life, the fundamental is prayer. Prayer helps us grow closer to Jesus and as we move towards Him we usually will take our friends with us. As Catholics we are responsible for inviting our friends into that personal relationship with Christ.
As we draw closer to Jesus we also grow in virtue. According to Catholic Answers, "virtues are special graces given by God to the soul for the accomplishment of particular objectives." (For more about virtues check out the link at the bottom of the page to the Catholic Answers article on virtue.) Growing in virtue through the grace of God, we are able to be better friends. We are able to become more engulfed in God's love and live like it. Walking closer to God allows for greater room in our hearts for charity and love which in turn shapes the way we treat our friends. We cannot expect good friendship where we do not show good friendship. Likewise, sometimes where there is not good friendship, there is all the more need for God's grace in our own hearts and the hearts of our friends.
In a practical perspective, in the mission to be a good Christian friend, it can be helpful to see our friends for what they are... Children of God first. Our friend is a son or daughter of Jesus before they are our friend. They belong to God and it is greatly important to live that out in our friendships.
To close friendships are so important in our walk with Christ. Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us, "friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious." We should walk closely with Christ, pray for our friends, and love them as Christ loves them.
Check out the Catholic Answers article on virtue using the button below.