For years, I’ve been “doing friendship” all wrong.
I’ve been looking for girlfriends who look like me, make me feel comfortable, and with whom I have a lot of (often unimportant) interests in common. My approach to friendship has reflected a “What’s-in-it-for-me?” attitude, which has been worldly (at best), proud, and self-centered.
When I look into the Bible, I see that my approach is not God’s plan for relationships between women in His church.
From just a few examples in the Bible, we see:
- Christian women working with one another in ministry for the purpose of the gospel. (Luke 8:1-3)
- Women engaged in purposeful discipleship. (Titus 2:3-5)
- Women meeting together for the purpose of prayer. (Acts 16:13)
As I have repented of my unbiblical approach to friendships, I am learning that pursuing relationships with other women is a far cry from the world’s version of a girlfriend get-together or an artificial community founded on a love for this world. God’s design for Christian friendships is one of dying to self, elevating the gospel above our comfort zones, and purposeful ministry and community.
Here are five grace-rooted building blocks that I am learning are essential for strong Christian friendships:
1. Do not find your identity in your friendships.
Your friends will come and go, but your worth and identity are found in Christ alone. As we see in Paul’s life, sometimes his friends forsook him. Sometimes God prevented his friends from being present with him during trials. And sometimes, our relationships just grow distant. As sad and disappointing as this is, it is no mere cliché to remind you: There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Hold your friendships with an open hand. People will fail you, but as the old hymn reminds us, “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus; no not one, no not one!”
2. Remember your purpose.
None of us lives to herself, for the Bible says that if we live, we live to the Lord. And so, if the purpose of our life is to glorify God, let’s make our friendships about God’s glory, too. Whether your friends are Christians or unbelievers, the purpose of friendship is not about our own happiness.
While friendships bring us much joy, our relationships are not about us. They are to be lived joyfully and with expectant hope in God for His glory and fame.
3. The Gospel is a leveling ground.
The truth of the gospel has convicted me that my insecurities and fear of vulnerability are rooted in a proud heart.
- A heart that longs for others to like her will feel the need to guard her inadequacies, sins, and flaws.
- A heart that despises or looks down on those who are weaker in faith than she is does not have a good understanding of what Christ did for her on Calvary.
- A heart that is intimidated by the women who look like they have it all together doesn’t really believe God’s Word: All women “are corrupt…there is none who does righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:12).
At the foot of the cross, we are equals. Our needs, inadequacies, sins, and failures are not all that different from one another, for they serve to point us to our need for the Savior.
4. “Do friendship” with the people right around you.
I’ve looked far and wide for friends who fit my ideal “BFF.” But we don’t see this example in the New Testament! Christian women came together around the gospel and served one another, the church, and their communities.
I encourage you to begin “doing friendship” with women at your church, and also don’t miss the opportunities God is giving you through “chance” encounters in your neighborhood, around town, or online. Don’t worry about the other women’s background, race, age, or personality. How do you know which way the Spirit is moving? Just jump in and follow the guidelines in Hebrews 10:24-25.
5. Why not rather be wronged?
Contrary to popular notion, it’s okay to be taken advantage of. It’s Biblical to lay down your life for one another. I don’t want to be misunderstood to be saying that it’s okay to be manipulated or to remain in a divisive, controlling relationship — it’s not loving or Biblical to maintain a friendship in which you cannot pursue God’s glory and pursue loving one another without coercion or guilt.
What I DO mean to say is that your friends are going to let you down, and forgiving them 70 times 7 means that you overlook a lot — even as God in Christ forgave you. For the sake of souls, let us make our aim in all our relationships just this thing: “For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:33).
The treasure of a Christian friend who runs the race alongside you is a precious thing, and a gospel-based friendship with unbelievers demonstrates the love that God extended to us — while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. In all our relationships, may we keep our eyes on the perfect example of friendship: Jesus, Friend of Sinners.
Amanda Criss is a wife, stay-at-home mom, and blogger at Bless Your Heart and Home. She writes to encourage the hearts of women through the good news of Jesus Christ. She and her husband, Jody, have two children and live in their home state of Mississippi.