“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
God has created us not just as moral beings with the ability to make choices, but as social beings who need families and friends to make our lives meaningful. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated social restrictions have caused us not to take kinship and friendship for granted. Even after transitioning to Phase 3 of Safe Re-opening, with more people allowed to meet, we are mindful that the health and community situation may change rapidly as our borders open up to the outside world to allow more travel and trade to flow in. Let’s pray that the community situation may be kept under control with the current safe management measures in place, that our need for social interaction may be enhanced and not curtailed.
Forming deep friendships
Deep in our hearts, we know we need friends, but the reality is that some of us are not making concerted efforts to form deep friendships due to reasons known only to us. “Many people have a lot of transactional relationships where they get things done, but sharing deep stories – where we know each other’s hearts, so that we can encourage one another – doesn’t happen that much,” says Rev Tan Soo-Inn, the founding director of publishing and training consultancy Graceworks. He goes on to add, “We need friendship as much as we need food and water.”
From his own experience, Rev Tan attests to the warm and healing embrace of friends who have walked with him through desolate and dark valleys. He affirms the refreshing joy they have brought to his life: “My best memories are of life in community with people.” These are the friends who stayed steadfastly by his side and accepted him as he was, with all his faults and shortcomings, and helped him to get back on his feet and be a blessing to others.
Rev Tan’s struggles with life and relationship setbacks, and his subsequent healing and recovery, led him to form a deep conviction about biblical friendship and the setting up of his 3-2-1 concept as a basis for Christian believers to form deep and meaningful friendships in our journey of faith. His simple concept of three friends meeting for two hours once a month over a meal is a practical structure he serves up in his same-titled book and has since been practised by many believers to great effect.
Even Jesus had friends during the time of His earthly ministry, comprising a large group of 72 disciples (Luke 10:1), with the 12 apostles (Mark 3:14, Luke 6:13) including His inner circle of Peter, James and John. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
Building friendships in Hermon
Ps Daniel Tan shared with us in his earlier sermons regarding the need to keep strengthening our roots in Hermon by growing deep in God’s Word and growing wide in our relational discipleship and intentional fellowship with one another, whether in church, homes or somewhere outside. Meeting in small groups affords us the setting and time to share more personally with one another, in relation to the sharing of God’s Word, fellowship and prayer. This intentional effort of coming together as God’s people in small groups to have meaningful gospel-centred conversation and prayer is the biblical basis for forming deep and abiding friendships that will sustain us through the ups and downs of life. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2) is Christ’s reminder to us to care for one another within the local church. In doing so, we fulfil His commandment to love one another, as He has loved us (John 13:34).
As we begin the new year, may we endeavour to reach out to one another in genuine concern and friendship. It is heartening to note that several Hermonites reached out to fellow worshippers last year during the earlier social restriction phases. This is a good start to building lasting friendships in Hermon. May the Lord enable us to do more in the coming months and years ahead. Amen.
– Eld Elgin Chan