“Friendship is unnecssary, like philosophy, like art…It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival” -C.S. Lewis
Friendship is valuable. It is not valuable as a means to an end. God, who loves relationships, created human relationships; and because of that, our relationships are valuable. Friendships are not discipleship, and friendships are not evangelism. Friendships are friendships. Discipleship may happen in a friendship and evangelism may happen in a friendship. But the purpose of a friendship is not merely discipleship or merely evangelism. Friendship should be pursued as friendship.
We don’t seem to have much of a concept of friendship in our world. We throw the word around on social networking sites where we have hundreds of “friends”, and we introduce people by saying, “This is my friend, so-and-so” when all we really mean when we use the word “friend” in this context is that we’ve known them for more than a few days, and we don’t hate them.
In the modern world, the phrase “making friends” is synonymous with things like, “business networking”. In church, when the phrase “making friends” is used in conjuction with with talk of people who are not Christians, it is synonymous with “evangelism”. When it is used in conjuction with talk of other Christians, it is synonymous with “finding accountability” or “discipleship”. You see, the word “friend” becomes a friendly word that simply means other things. Friendship for most is only a means to an end. And even though we treat it this way and live this way, my guess is that most of us cannot in good conscience say that friendship is only a means to an end. The problem is that we do not know how to find value in useless things. We know friendship is valuable; it’s how we were built. But in order to make it valuable in our minds we have to make it useful for something. The problem with this is that this makes friendship a means to an end and nothing else. Then the concept of friendship simply evaporates because it is not frienship, it becomes the thing that it is serving. You are not pursuing friendships if you are pursuing frienships for the purpose of business networking, you are simply business networking.
So, my question is: Can we find value in something simply because God created it and values it, or do we need to have some use for it? Newborns are not valuable to us because they are useful. They are not valuable to us because of their potential to be productive members of society. Parents who mourn the loss of a child are not mourning because society lost a valuable asset. They are mourning because their child had value simply because he was a child.
The reason I am bringing this up is because we seem to spend more time looking into the blue light of a screen than the face of a friend. Our lives are so busy that we would rather not mess with frivolous things like spending time with friends. The existence we find ourselves in becomes flat and mechanical, lacking any depth because we only value the things that are useful.
One of the problems with thinking that everything must be useful to be important is that this leads to an endless cycle of discontentment. Everything is used for the next thing so we can get to the next thing and on and on it goes as the busyness piles on. I believe the church has followed the example of the world in its view of friendships. Instead of shaping the culture by upholding the value of friendships in a world that is becoming increasingly self-serving and devoid of any meaningful understanding of frienship, the church has followed suit and has become increasingly busy and overly preoccupied with useful, dry, and mechanical facts and figures. Our churches have become large convert-making machines where everything that is not useful to the purpose of convert-making has been stripped away and discarded. We have entered into the endless cycle of busyness. We make converts so they can make converts. If this is all our faith is about, then we need to stop all this talk about shaping culture because we have a very flat faith that simply mimics the surrounding culture and is unable to interact with the rest of the world in any meaninful way.
If we claim to represent the God who created and values frienships, then should we not do the same? Should we not create and value frienships simply because they are valuable?