Earlier this summer I read Made For Friendship by Drew Hunter. I loved this book, and several moments during my reading, I caught myself almost moved to tears as Hunter addressed some of my deepest, relational longings. Made For Friendship is written from a christian perspective, and I believe every Christian who has friends or desires to have friends should read it. In other words: all Christians should read it.
I like how Hunter is able to uncover these often overlooked theological truths about friendship and then communicate them in a way that is accessible to almost anyone. The book is structured in three main parts, and each part answers a question about friendship in two or three chapters. These are the three questions he attempts to answer: Why do we need it? What is it? What is its ultimate significance?
Why Do We Need It?
Hunter opens with the big claim that “friendship is the ultimate end of our existence.” He later addresses the idea that Jesus is our friend. Hunter claims that the reason the first section sounds like an overstatement and the concept of friendship with Jesus sounds irreverent is simply because we have trivialized the idea of friendship. If we think we are making Jesus too small by calling him a friend, then the problem is that our concept of what it means to be a friend is too small. He makes the point that we tend to call everyone we know a friend, but the problem with this is that if everyone is a friend then no one is a friend. The word loses its meaning.
After addressing this loss of the value and understanding of friendship, Hunter then relates our desire for friendship to our desire to return to Eden, a time of perfect harmony between God, humanity, and creation. Hunter makes the point that we were made for friendship with God. However, even when Adam had friendship with God, it was still not good enough. Adam needed a human companion. No only does the creation of Eve provide romantic companionship, but she also provided a future world full of friendships and human connections.
According to Hunter, desiring friendship is human, and it is not unspiritual. Hunter quotes John Piper when he writes, “The less you want friends, the less like God you are.” His point is that we were made in the image of God, and in order to be the humans we are meant to be, we need friends because God is a befriending God. He addresses this in greater detail in the third section.
What is it?
This section of the book opens with a beautiful quote by J.C. Ryle:
“The world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. it is a dark place. it is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our troubles and doubles our joys.”
Throughout this section, Hunter defines friendship over the course of three chapters. First he makes an argument for how friendship gives us the good life and describes what friendship should add to our lives. In the next two chapters, he addresses both the intimacy and intentionality required in a real friendship. There are two other quotes from these chapters that I love. The first addresses the idea of constancy in friendships, “Not every relationship needs a covenant. But even if we don’t formalize our commitment, we still must make it felt. No friendship can last without loyalty.”
The third chapter of this section is titled, “Cultivating Friendship,” and Hunter opens by saying, “Here’s a myth about friendship: it just happens.” In this chapter Hunter makes the argument that friendship takes intentionality, work, and sacrifice. he begins his concluding paragraph by saying, “…the best advice for cultivating friendship is not to find a better friend but to become one.”
What Is Its Ultimate Significance?
Throughout the final two chapters, Hunter addresses the ultimate purpose of friendship. He does this by unfolding a biblical theology of friendship. Hunter begins with the character and nature of God before he moves into God’s action of befriending us.
Hunter relates God’s triune nature to our desire to be in relationship with one another. He makes the claim that God existing as the loving, joyful Trinity reveals God’s infinite nature as a loving and relational being. Because our God is triune, “Ultimate reality is personal, relational, and exuberantly joyful. Before there was anything there was love. There was, in a sense, friendship.” The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “…deeply united in fellowship.” Hunter argues that because we were made in the image of this relational God, we are also relational creatures. Hunter also writes, “God is like a bubbling spring, a fountain over flowing with the refreshing waters of life. Like a rushing waterfall, the joy of God’s triune fellowship overflowed, creating a world that would share in his love.” God created us for friendship with him and to reflect him in our friendships with one another.
The final chapter, “The Great Friend,” shows the reader how the God of the Bible is a befriending God. Jesus is mocked by the religious leaders of his day as the “friend of sinners.” For any person who understands their own sinfulness, this is a reason for great comfort and joy. Jesus is both the best and truest friend we will ever have, yet he is also our example for the kind of friend we should be.
Hunter makes the point that we often talk about community in our churches, but we rarely talk about friendship. I believe that our desire for community is actually a desire for deep, rich, fulfilling friendship. I highly recommend this book for all Christians because there are so few resources on this topic available.
As a single guy, I think a great deal about my friendships and how to cultivate the best friendships that I possibly can. Single people in churches often struggle to find deep, intimate friendships, and I believe married people struggle to find deep relationships outside of their marriages. Though single people may feel their need for friendship more acutely than their married peers, I believe that we all need deep friendships. I often feel as though the Christian communities I am a part of are not living up to their potential and calling. One of the reasons for this is that we have followed along with the wider culture and forgotten what friendship is supposed to be. Thankfully we have a Savior who has stepped in to not only show us what friendship is meant to be, but by his immeasurable grace, he has also extended the hand of friendship to us.