How To Grow Healthy Christian Friendships

6 min read

Today we’re sharing tips and faith-filled advice on how to grow healthy Christian friendships. Because, while it feels like something that should just happen effortlessly, it’s an area of life that can actually take a lot of work.

The Bible tells a compelling story of a Christian life being one that’s filled with deep relationships and lasting friendships. But, so often, our own experience can fall short. 

First, What Does The Bible Say About Friendship?

One of the fundamental messages of Christianity is that God has extended His hand of friendship towards us. Jesus modelled this through His life and revealed it in His teachings. One of the profound points of Jesus’ message was that God desires an intimate connection with us. 

We are invited into a rich and nourishing friendship with God and are then encouraged to extend that friendship and love to others we meet. 

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father, I have made known to you.” John 15

The Bible includes plenty of advice and input on what love should feel like and how we should treat each other and our friends. Luke 6, for example, has the famous teaching, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” But scripture is clear on one thing that goes against the tide in society’s general approach to friendship. Namely, you don’t just offer friendship to people you get along well with and like. As Christians, we are called to go above and beyond the friendships that come effortlessly and instead seek out the lost and lonely and reveal God’s love to them. 

Jesus’ Example Of Healthy Christian Friendships

Jesus, as always, is our best example of healthy Christian friendship. He was friends with a diverse cross-section of society. He befriended those from a similar background to him, but Jesus also befriended the outcasts and rejects. And Jesus included women in his intimate circle of friends and spent time with the sick and poor—both things would have been very frowned upon. 

Author John Mark Comer makes a distinction between people you have chemistry with and people you have community with. This is a really helpful way to approach friendship as a Christian. 

You’re not going to have great chemistry with everybody. Some people you meet, and there’s an instant ease and connection: you might share the same humour, interests, or background. This is always so joyful and can be a great encouragement. These are people you have chemistry with. But, often, you’ll meet people and that natural chemistry won’t be there. That doesn’t mean they can’t still become part of your community, though.

In a lecture at Liberty University, John Mark Comer expanded on this theme:

“Connectivity is mistaken for community thanks to Instagram, Facebook, and other social media, but it does not replace the face-to-face we need with a dear friend. Chemistry is another obstacle we face, because while we may have chemistry with others, we may not have community with them. Community is deeper than connectivity and chemistry. It’s our commonality as followers of Jesus to live life together in exposure and encouragement to develop who you are becoming in Christ.”

The Importance Of Community As A Christian

Comer hits on a crucial point when considering how to grow healthy Christian friendships, and that is community. As believers, we need to not only consider building friendships but also building something much more foundational and nourishing: community. 

The theme of community is woven throughout the whole Bible. You can see the heart of God for living in intimacy with each other and Him in Eden. Then there’s the numerous examples of God working through families, relationships and tribes to save His people throughout the Old Testament. 

Then, in the book of Acts, we see the importance of community as a Christian spelled out as the early church lived in community. Or, rather, the early church was community! 

Acts 2 says: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”

Community is character-building. It challenges and encourages us and creates the perfect space for God to work. 

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27

Three Foundations For Building Healthy Christian Friendships 

Where do you start if you want to build healthy Christian friendships and invest in community? Here are three foundations:. 

Be Vulnerable

Vulnerability is powerful. It connects you, heart to heart, forming a relationship that has the capacity to include great healing and joy. Of course, you’ve got to be wise, take your time getting to know someone, and ensure you feel safe. 

Author Brené Brown writes on vulnerability: “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honour the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.”

A church community is great place to practice vulnerability. Try joining a small group or asking some Christian friends to meet up regularly. You could even reach out to someone as a mentor or peer mentor. Vulnerability is a bit like a muscle; it’ll feel strange and a little uncomfortable when you start to use it. But it will get stronger and stronger, and soon your vulnerability will be something that brings you great strength and support. 

Don’t Trip Each Other Up

The book of Romans contains some great, practical teaching on friendships. One well-known scripture says: 

“Therefore, let us stop passing judgement on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” Romans 14

This passage is from a chapter of Romans that addresses the challenge of Christians with differing beliefs coming together in community. This verse encourages us not to trip each other up by enforcing the details of our faith onto them. 

We have to trust that God is working in all of us, sorting through the good from the bad. Sometimes God will ask us to partner with Him and bring a healthy challenge to someone; these moments are powerful and precious. But we need to resist the temptation to always point out where people are different from us. Or how they execute their faith differently. Instead of focusing on the difference in your diets, just focus on sharing a meal together. 

Pursue Unity

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14

When believers meet and worship together in peace, it creates a moment of heaven touching earth. Because of this, unity is often highly contested. Our own pride and offence can get in the way of us following Scripture’s instruction to be in unity with each other. Before we know it, we can feel more at odds with our Christian friends and community than in unity with them. 

In Ephesians 4, it says: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

One thing that makes pursing unity much easier is, during times of conflict or disagreement, pause and ask yourself for the ‘why’ behind what you’re going to say or do. Is your motivation simply to be heard and make your point? Do you feel you have to respond because you know they’re misled? 

Ask yourself: will my response take us closer to, or further away from, unity?

It’s not easy to do but if you can swallow your pride and stay in unity with people, even when it’s difficult, you make a way for God to not only change your hearts but to bring growth and reconciliation. Better than we ever could by just making sure our point was heard. 

It’s also these relationships, where we pursue unity, that can go on to form the best friendships and lasting community in our life. 

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