by Michael Keller
Everyone wants to be loved more. Everyone wants to be cared for.
But does anyone feel they are perfectly loved and cared for? No. So then what should we do? I remember wrestling with this question myself when I was going through a pretty lonely time in my life. “Where will I find good relationships? How will I feel more connected?” I thought. For many of us August is typically a month where we take inventory about these things before we “gear up” for the fall. Often there is hope for change, for new and meaningful relationships, but no particular direction for what to do next.
To experience the love and care found in new, rich friendships one has to put effort into several key areas. Scripture shows us that relationships form through a straightforward equation: proximity, plus time, plus commonality, plus vulnerability equals friendship. Or to be really nerdy: P+T+C+V=Friendship
We see the essence of this equation in Acts 2:42-47.
(P)roximity - Verse 42 states that the newly formed church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” Clearly this shows us what they did for church, but it also shows us that they were committed to placing themselves in the same space with each other. The word “devoted” here means literally “to press on” and “stick with it.” With so much technology at our disposal we forget sometimes that we need to spend time in the personal company of others.
(T)ime - Not only should we place ourselves in the company of others, but we must do this regularly. Once or twice a year is not enough. Verse 46 says “every day they continued to meet together.” At the very least, this means that for relationships to form and thrive there needs to be some regularity and meaningful face time.
(C)ommonality - In verse 44 we see this because “all the believers were together and had everything in common.” Luke, the writer of Acts, was referring to possessions, which if we think about it many things we have in common with others relate to material things like playing tennis, or photography or a favorite book. But just spending time with people and doing it frequently is not enough for real friendship to develop because time spent does not guarantee commonality. If this were true, we would all be best friends with our co-workers. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis says that in order for friendship to arise “companions [must] discover that they have in common some insight or interest.”
(V)ulnerability - Lastly, loneliness will still set in if there is no vulnerability with one another. What gave the early church the power to be so vulnerable with each other that they were willing to sell even their possessions and goods (v. 45)? What made them willing to put themselves at economic risk? Simply put, they saw and heard and remembered what Christ had done for them at the cost of his own relationship to the Father—Jesus lost relationship with God to gain it with us.
So if we know what we want and what it takes to get it, why aren’t we experiencing it more? For many, that initial step of putting ourselves in that first small group, or Beta group, or college group, or Faith & Work group (where we don’t know anyone) is just too awkward. What we see in Acts 2, however, is that intentional time spent relating begets real, organic and natural friendship. We have to be willing to walk through a time of formality to get to the natural friendships. There’s no better time than this fall to test this equation and see what it yields.
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