Spiritual Friendship

Published by Camille deVos on

C.S. Lewis is known to have said that friendship is born at the moment one person says to another “You too? I thought I was the only one.” We connect and build friendships based off the things that we have in common, our shared interests, hobbies and passions; the similar stages of life we find ourselves in, and even the similar difficulties that we face. We gravitate toward the people who are like us and build relationships with them.

We like it when people are the same as us. There is a sense of familiarity and knowing what to expect. As a result, we feel safe and secure, remaining well within our comfort zone. Even when we find ourselves moving church or reaching out to new people, it is tempting to do that with those who seem to have things in common with us.

What about when people are different? What do we do when we don’t really seem to have anything in common with them; when we start to talk to them but there doesn’t seem to be any point of connection? What do we do when we find out that they think about things so differently to us so that we don’t know what to do or say? How do we build relationships then?

When we are similar to those around us, we don’t really notice those who are different. When we are a part of a community where there is a standard or norm that we fit into, it is easy to overlook or to dismiss those who do not fit in. We might believe that we have great friendships or that we are very good at building relationships but what do we see when we look closer?

Take the time to think carefully about the friendships and relationships you have:

  • What stage of life is everyone at? Does everyone seem to be in the same or similar place in life? What interactions do you have with those who are in a different stage? What has happened with the friendships where people have followed a different trajectory than you?
  • What about hobbies and other interests? Is there a lot of similarities? Do you meet with others only because you have the same interests? How do you interact with hobbies or interests that may be outside of your experience?
  • What about matters of appearance? What do you and your family look like in comparison to your friends? Think about the clothes you wear, the car you drive, your weight/body size, your house or other things that you have.
  • How does everyone think about things? Do you all have the same thoughts and opinions? What happens when someone sees things in a different way or thinks something through in a way that you are not familiar with?
  • What are your conversations about? How do you talk about things that are happening in your lives or the things that you are interested in? What about your conversations about other people, especially those who are different to you?
  • What do we see if we look under the surface of our own lives? Are we hiding or disguising some of our own differences so that we can continue to have these friendships?

It is easy when we have lots of things in common with our friends. We can spend time together in ways that are comfortable and don’t require much effort. However, the bible calls us to have relationships that are much bigger and much deeper than the things that we have in common. It calls us to pursue relationships with the whole body of Christ, giving the same care to all the members. We are to move toward those around us who have different experiences, different personalities, different talents and different responsibilities. The relationships that emerge from this is what we know as the communion of saints, or spiritual friendship.

As Christians, we are able to move past the differences that we find on the surface and find a deeper connection that is defined by who we are in Christ. We all have a deep fellowship, communion and relationship with our Saviour that spills over into our relationships. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can pursue spiritual friendships that are defined by what God has given us and the work that he is doing in all our lives.

Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 4:1-6:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and on Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who in over all and through all and in all.

The New Testament offers a beautiful model of unity in diversity that we have access to as members of the body of Christ. The church is called to embrace diversity in a way that is filled with love and compassion, in a way that the ‘woke’ agenda of many in our society does not have access to. The love of God empowers us to start to build relationships with people who are different to us. It gives us the courage to move toward others, finding ways to get to know them because of the love that we have for them. It grounds us, providing a confidence that means that we are unafraid of possible rejection.

When we spend time with people who are different to us we are supported and encouraged in new and sometimes surprising ways. Those who have had different experiences than us draw our attention to the work of God in ways that we might not see on our own. People who have different interests and skills provide support and encouragement in places where we and others like us might be lacking. Those who think differently than we do challenge and at times convict us because of their alternate opinions. It is true that in spending time with those who are different, we might find ourselves encountering conflict and discomfort more often. God uses our discomfort to reveal more of what is going on in our hearts, he uses those moments of conflict to help us to grow in godliness.

I would like to encourage you to prayerfully reflect on the friendships you have. Start with the questions above, be honest with yourself about the patterns you might find and maybe even ask for the perspective of someone else. Bring this before God, ask for his grace so that you may notice the areas where you may need to grow and his forgiveness where you have fallen short. Know that God’s grace means your relationships will continue to change and you will be empowered to notice and reach out to those who are different more and more.

Some great books that share more information on this topic include: True Friendship by Vaughn Roberts, Relationships: A mess worth making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp as well as Real: The surprising secret to deeper relationships by Catherine Parks.


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