One of the things to swirl around my brain at the weekend was the genius nature of actual gospel friendship. That sounds like a very jargonified thing. But, what I mean by that is friendship that is based on the fundamental unvarnished truth about each other. Friendship that allows for each other to mess up in the most unbelieveably stupid and sinful ways and still says, I’m for you, and I believe in the power of God to bring good and redeem even this mess of a situation.
This is friendship that goes beyond our illusions of perfect lives that we like to try and maintain, and even goes beyond our acceptable sins, right down to the core of the stinking mess that we like to hide from everyone, including ourselves. For someone to see this mess, and then to not turn away horrified but to continue to love and hold out the message of hope is what the reality of the gospel brings in our lives. We have a God who called us when we were his enemies, and who knows the real state of our hearts, and yet still lavishes his love on us. Our friendships need to reflect this.
Too often I live to impress and think that if I impress enough people with my growth and improvement I’ll have made it. The truth is that I am still a sinner. I still get it wrong, and I seem to find ever more twisted ways of rejecting my Maker. The way of living that lives to impress only serves to keep me living in illusion, I then must do all I can do maintain that illusion and so my soul shrivels. The kind of friendship that sees the flaws, the pride, the mess within and carries on loving and is committed to real change is so breath takingly freeing. We can then be free to be our messed up selves with no illusions, and free to face the reality of grace committed to us whatever. I count myself honoured to have seen that kind of friendship on display through the Relay programe, in the lives of Andy Shudall, Nigel Pollock, Marcus Honeysett and more. Hearing them talk about times when they’ve rebuked each other, and been rebuked by others and seeing that wasn’t the end of the friendship or their story in life and ministry is brilliantly encouraging.
This kind of friendship involves trust, exposure, reality and awareness that we are works in progress, sadly it’s always more surprising to me than others when I discover my sin, but to have people around who know the truth and still offer grace, mercy and love is the best way to reflect the character of our most loving Father.