Article by Mwansa Ndemi
Are friendships in our modern day as shallow as we suspect they are? Well I am glad you asked. Yes. Yes, they are. Some place the blame at the door of Social Media. A tool that promised to connect the world, ignoring the barriers of location as people living thousands of miles apart could now find one another and connect over mutual interests. Instead, the promise of the future not only turned into a nightmare but also became the scapegoat and go to culprit for the troubles/woes of modern times.
One would think the Christian world would be the beacon in such times. Salt adding flavour to an otherwise bland dish, a lighthouse showing people the way to dry ground through their stormy waters, but unfortunately there has not been much there either. Why would this be the case? Does the gospel not transform our relationships? What I have come to realize is the problem is not the truth or nature of the gospel but our failure to live by it. So if the problem is not social media or the gospels’ ability to transform us, what then is the problem? To put it simply, we are naive.
I’m sure everything is fine
We are suffering a love problem. Love that looks out for the well-being of another person even to the detriment of personal convenience. Love has the hard conversations because love stares into the eyes of a friend and tells the truth about what we see there. Love is not naive, pretending everything is fine when the alarm bells have been ringing for a very long time. We see so many things that should put us on edge, and yet we say nothing. We say nothing because we have bought into worldly notions of tolerance rather than biblical principles of love. Here are three scenarios to make my point. I can give a lot more than three, but I hope these suffice.
Scenario one. You have a Christian friend who is in a relationship that is going south. Every time you meet them you are dealing with complaints of unresolved issues from their relationship. Sooner rather than later the relationship meets its inevitable end. Within a few weeks, your friend is already telling you about someone else they have their eye on. In reality, they probably already began making moves on this new person, and you are being given an update wrapped up in the language of a plan. You know it is an update rather than a plan because within a few short days or weeks, your friend is in a relationship. You hope for the best. Hoping that this time won’t be like last time.
Scenario two. You have a Christian friend with whom you would attend and serve at church, youth meetings, camps, conferences, home group, morning and evening services; through it all you were together. Then comes a time when your friend begins to cut down on these things for a variety of “perfectly good reasons” like school, work or rest. Now they are down to Sunday service attendance alone. Where once being on time was standard fare now it isn’t a starting time for the services as much as it is a range within which to arrive. At least they show up though. Things must be fine.
Scenario three. You have a Christian friend who is spending a little more money than they should have given their job. You see them frequently buying things that are fairly expensive or building projects that are taking up so much of their time and proceeding at a really fast rate. They must be getting the money from legitimate sources, no need to ask questions. This pursuit of wealth and possessions they have must be healthy after all they are Christians. Everything must be fine. Nothing to see here.
The problem is that we have given into worldly notions of tolerance and called it love. Our neighbours live in their homes surrounded by their wall fence, and we only get to visit once in a while. Any problems we see cannot be addressed because we don’t know their full situation and don’t understand their context. And besides who are we to judge, everything should be fine. They are Christians, they must be keeping a healthy Christian diet, meditating and applying the word even though we do not know or see where that is happening. We so willingly choose ignorance all the while talking about accountability and intentionality.
Do we think God is honoured by this? Does God not know that we saw the danger signs early on and refused to address it out of, at best, a lack of time, and at worst a lack of interest wrapped in the garments of tolerance. Who do we think we are fooling? We have a hypocrisy problem because we care more what man thinks as we say to one another ‘Who saw that coming?’ Knowing full well that God sees our hearts and knows that we saw the danger signs early on. God has called us to be our brothers keeper, and yet we insist on wilful ignorance.
But there is one more layer here. Even when we confront a friend that we have suspicions over and are given an answer that is flimsy we walk away patting ourselves on the back because at least we asked. We have ticked the box of our responsibility and if they choose to lie to us what can we do. We wash our hands and leave it to God. If you had strong suspicions that the actions of a friend will end in ruin not just for them but for those around them as well, is it loving to just tick the box? We chonga the register and move on with our lives. Where is the love?
Repentance and Faith
The only way to turn this around and rescue our friendships is to get back to Biblical Christianity and this requires repentance. It requires repentance because we have fallen short of God’s standard. It is not just that we are not being good friends but that we are not loving our friends and neighbours as God intends us to. It is not just a case of falling short of some arbitrary standard but that we have fallen short of his standard. Part of this is to know what his standard is. Far too many of us are able to say greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friend without having the first clue what that looks like within the context of a regular twenty-four-hour day. Repent, it begins there.
But we also need faith because we are stepping out into the unknown and having the hard conversations that can break friendships. We even risk being called unloving and this is why we need to have faith in God. We are risking giving things up for the sake of saving them. Being honest with our friends requires bravery because it risks breaking something that we think is whole and if we lack an understanding of how God works we see the breaking as the end and yet God sees the breaking as the way he fixes. He tears off what is dead and damaged and makes things new. Would you trust him with your friendships or would you rather maintain the status quo as ‘they do them, and you do you’.
Christian love and friendship contrary to popular belief is not naive. That is not what love believes all things means. We help no one if we are naive. It is silly to think your friends who were once feasting heavily from the means of grace and lived healthy Christian lives have abandoned most of that and yet are still living healthy lives. Unlike the physical it is hard to see the malnutrition of the spiritual state and unfortunately by the time we see it, it is usually too late. Wouldn’t you rather be a friend than an ambulance driver?
This article originally appeared at https://mwansambewe.wordpress.com/2021/01/14/the-friendships-of-the-naive/