Belonging is not just a buzz-word but a true desire for The New Young Christian. We are talking about creating a culture of authentic friendship and If you haven't had a chance to read Part 1 you can read about it here.
Why a culture of authentic friendship?
Because we live in a culture that seems to promote faux friendship. We choose to exchange love for "likes from others" and friendship for "follows" from others. Or in other words, "friendship" that is perceived to be genuine but in reality lack depth, isn't costly, not messy and is missing boldness. The result of a loss of these kinds of friendships means that we seem to be more alone and more lonely than we think.
We may not realize it but we are missing a relationship hat we never knew we could have that for some of us, have never experienced it before. Imagine having a relationship that will commit to seeing you succeed no matter what. Imagine having a friendship that believes in you when you don't even believe in yourself. Isn't that the heart of God? We need people who see the potential in us when we don't see it ourselves. We need people to help us excavate our potential in us so we can be the person God we have always thought we could be and that God has always meant for us to be. We need friends that not only tell us "you can do it" but imagine having a friendship that is absolutely honest with you. When you are doing something that seems to be moving you towards a negative outcome, they are unafraid to call it out and are bold enough to accept your rejection when you don't see it. Here's the point: You need someone in your life to tell you "no" and to stick with you when you reject their no. Those friendships are hard to find but when you find it, hold onto them and don't let go. Because if you choose to stay by their side and you choose to fight alongside, you give each other a gift...the gift of loyalty.
A loyal friend is a gift.
What does loyalty really looks like? We say vows to one another that we will be with them through it all but when it gets hard we divorce and leave. When we don't like our boss or our work situation, we decide to find another job or simply become our own boss. When we don't feel like we are loved, we choose to walk away from a relationship, an organization or a cause based on a feeling.
The true definition for loyalty is God. Scripture tells us that even if we are not loyal, He remains loyal to us. The bible calls this faithfulness. Even when we choose to not be faithful to God, He still is faithful to us...no matter what we've done. God says "nothing can separate Me from you...nothing (Romans 8:31-39). The Word of God continually says that God will never leave us, turn his back on us but will continue to work in us and be with us until the end.
Authentic friendships are not only essential but addicting. Scientists have confirmed something that Rachel, Monica, Joey, Chandler, Phoebe and Ross understood... that having friends is a "must-have" or we might even say "addicting" (that's my "Friends" reference for you "old-schoolers" but for some of you reading this, just think the 4 kids in Stranger Things kind of friendship). According to new research published in Scientific Reports, individuals who have a lot of close friends have a higher pain tolerance than people who don't and being around them provides a more powerful than expected endorphin rush that you would find in drug use. Researchers explained it this way:
One theory, known as 'the brain opioid theory of social attachment', is that social interactions trigger positive emotions when endorphin binds to opioid receptors in the brain. This gives us that feel-good factor that we get from seeing our friends.
In other words, being surrounded by your friends is a more effective painkiller than morphine itself. In a time when we are addicted to many things that are harmful, to have a relentless commitment to one another might be the best high you could have in life. In a time when we are experiencing the pain of loss of relationships (divorce, abandonment, etc) your friends are the "morpine" to your pain.
It makes sense why our creator made us this way. God knew our need for relationship and the power of friendship. Jesus modeled friendship this way:
"Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:13
Friendship that is sacrificial.
Friendship that is fought for.
Friendship that is honest.
Friendship that is durable.
Friendship that is forgiving.
Friendship is hard.
Friendship is risky.
Friendship is forgiving.
Friendship is essential.
Friendship is trust.
The most essential ingredient of having a culture of authentic friendship is trust. Because without it, it leads to isolation which produces loneliness. Loneliness is when we choose to put up walls whether we realize it or not keeping us safe and while ultimately keeping others out. Some of us have been wounded. We've trusted and someone hurt us. We've opened up and we have been rejected. We have trusted and been let down. That causes us to pull back and to let only certain people into our lives as long as they meet the criteria. Over time, we begin to make unhealthy statements to ourselves that are this: "I don't trust them" or "I will never forgive" or "they owe me an apology" or "they are going to have to approach me first" which ultimately become the bricks for the walls we build. That's why when God puts us into community, we have an obligation to be aware of walls and to break them down. God says it this way in Galations 6:1,
"Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently."
When we see someone who is offended, hurt or living in unforgiveness, we should approach them gently and lovingly lead them back to trusting again.
Question: Is this the culture of friendship that you are creating?
Part 3 is next....