This article’s title comes from a Michael W. Smith song from the late 1980s. The lyrics say, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the lord of them.” Smith’s point is that when our earthly friends are friends in Christ, our relationship does not end, even when we are separated by time and distance.
We start to learn about friendship from childhood. For me, it was in the Head Start program in Lima, Ohio. My friend’s name was Peanut. I initially thought “Peanut” was a neighborhood nickname, until everyone—including his mom—called him Peanut. Peanut and I worked in the same pod. We ate lunch together. We played together. After school, we would hang out at each other’s homes. Understand, back in the 1960s, young children spent time outside, running up and down the dirt roads and playing in the weeds with no fear. Most people were related or had lived on the same plot of land for generations.
Peanut was my best friend for a short time. My family moved to Milwaukee two years after Head Start, and I never saw Peanut again. But I had the opportunity to make new friends. My brother, Greg, and I got to know the neighborhood children. We played together, but the friendships were only on a surface level.
Friendship is more than hanging out and staying in touch.
After two years in a public elementary school, the Lord provided the blessing of a Christian education in a Lutheran elementary school. There, I found a new friend, Rodney (aka ROC). He was a year behind me in school, but Rodney became my best friend. We did all the same things Peanut and I had done: went to school together, ran and played basketball together, spent the night at each other’s homes, and enjoyed each other’s company.
But this relationship was on another level. We went to church together. Later we went to the same Lutheran high school. We ran track together over the summer after our high school years. Later we shared an apartment. We were in each other’s weddings. Even after we moved to different states, the friendship remained.
Friendship is more than hanging out and staying in touch. Scripture tells us: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). The true value of a Christian friend is that you can talk openly and honestly about your sins and God’s forgiveness, your weaknesses and Christ’s strength. He or she will not just tell you what they think; a friend that is forever will lead you to and through God’s Word for your direction, correction, and solution.
As I have matured, I have recognized the need for those brothers—friends—in the pastoral ministry to whom I can go with my tough questions, situations, or challenges. I am surrounded by such friends in my ministry. We have grown to know one another’s strengths and weaknesses. We share heartaches and joys, and on those painfully rough days we share the soothing balm of Jesus’ promises. Studying God’s Word is a privilege we enjoy. Praying for one another’s health, families, and vocations is natural. We confess our sins to one another and receive absolution from one another. We have a special friendship that is connected in Jesus.
Friends who have Jesus at the center of their relationship truly are friends forever. May the Lord bless you with such a friend in Jesus!
Author: Snowden Sims
Volume 107, Number 08
Issue: August 2020