Discipline of Friendship, what does that mean? While we’ve been reading Disciplines of a Godly Man (DGM), I’ve also been reading The Masculine Mandate (MM) by Richard Phillips. Both of these books are awesome and need to be on a list of books that every man should read! Both books have chapters on friendship. Consequently, I’m full of ideas and principles and conviction! So let’s dive in!
The ways our homes are designed tell the story of how much we value me over we. I was particularly struck by the statement that we so often don’t even know our neighbors. That struck far too close to home for me. For the longest time, I didn’t even know the names of my next door neighbors. That’s shameful. How inwardly focused must I be to not even know their names?! Thank God for the many people in our church who practice the gift of hospitality God has given them. This opens up avenues for friendships to form, blossom and grow!
Few men have actual friendships: “only 10% of men ever have any real friends.” Wow. Read it again. Wow. That’s incredible, depressing and wrong. What about you? Do you have real friends or just one real friend? I thought one important point was that sometimes we fear that people will see us as homosexuals. This is true and I bet we’ve all felt this way. Perhaps we shouldn’t care so much about what other people think about us and instead see their questions as opportunities to share about our faith.
By using Jesus as an example, Hughes points out that real men (for Jesus was the manliest of men!) surround themselves with close friends to be intimately close to. Think about it: Jesus chose 12 guys to be on a three-year road trip with him. They walked together, ate together, ministered together, prayed together. They lived life together in a mutually intimate way that we would be quick to scorn if only it weren’t Jesus! Hughes is right in saying that friendship is not optional. We “need Christian male friends who have a same-sex understanding of the serpentine passages of your heart.”
David and Jonathan
This leads into the example of David and Jonathan. While reading through The Masculine Mandate, Phillips used David and Jonathan as his primary example of biblical male friendship as well! It is a particularly good example, as Hughes points out, because both Jonathan and David were manly men. They were warriors. I loved these sentences: “Blood-covered Jonathan was one tough hombre!” “Blood-smeared stood holding the great gory head [of Goliath], talking calmly with Jonathan’s father, Saul.” Hughes’ description of these two men is helpful to us, especially because Jonathan and David were likely 30 years apart, a challenge to our idea of peer-only friendships. The example is also outstanding because there is no doubt that these two men should have been jealous rivals looking each to undermine the other. Instead, they demonstrated five character qualities that I will now briefly comment on:
These two men shared a common fierce love of Yahweh, the God of Israel. However different their personalities or interests may have been, they shared something far deeper. Likewise, we share a common bond with the Christian men in our church: the blood of Jesus has paid for our sin and washed us anew! We are blood brothers in the truest sense! Let this cause us to overlook all the petty requirements we normally put in the way of being friends with other men.
Now we tread on weird ground for American males. It’s okay to love our wives, our daughters, our mothers, our sisters, our sports teams, our cars, but somehow it’s not okay to love our guy friends. Frankly, that’s ridiculous, especially considering the previous paragraph on mutuality. We must sincerely love each other with a God-given love that is deep and abiding.
This principle is described as “my life for your life.” We see this illustrated in Jonathan’s astonishing covenant with David. Jonathan was the son of the king, the prince of Israel, the heir to the throne! And yet he humbled himself and covenanted with a young shepherd boy, committing his own life and the life of his family into David’s hands. I thought it was unfortunate that Hughes used Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan to demonstrate this, as it completely goes against the grain of the book by using women as the example. Oh well. The point is that we must be committed to each other. To quote the great philosophers at Disney, “We’re all in this together.”
I don’t know where I got this from, but I’m big on the character quality of loyalty, which is part of the reason why I’m a die-hard SPURS, COWBOY’s and ASTROS fan! And I say that semi-seriously because so many sports “fans” just jump on the nearest bandwagon of the Super Bowl-World Series-Championship winners. Those fans have not starved through long years (even decades!) of losing and still stayed by their teams, putting up with mockery and heartbreak. Okay, so you non-sports lovers think I’m an idiot now. Maybe. Or maybe there is a nugget of truth in our oft-shifting loyalties that inevitably leads to disloyalty to those left behind. As Hughes points out, “Loyalty is indispensable to the survival of friendship.” Jonathan was disloyal to his own father and even to his own chance at kingship (1 Sam. 20:31) in order to be loyal to David, which was in fact being loyal to the sovereign God who had chosen David as the man after his own heart.
Often we think of women being encouragers and perhaps we subtly think that that’s the way God made them. But the Bible consistently calls us to encourage (1 Thess. 4:18, 5:11; 1 Tim. 5:1; Heb. 10:24-25) and we can do this if we are involved with friends that encourage us and that also need encouragement. This is of course more than a mere slap on the back accompanied by platitudes. It should be an encouragement to look to God to strengthen a brother in God.
Be a Friend
The chapter ends with a call to prayer, friendliness, work, affirmation, listening, acceptance and hospitality. I’ve already burdened you with more than enough summary and commentary but let me briefly say that while searching for friends it is imperative that we are friendly ourselves. We shouldn’t do this in a fake, manipulative sense, but in a prayerful and concerned way as we work at making, keeping and building friendships.
Let me end with Hughes’ words to all of us: “If you are a regular church attender but do no more than attend morning worship, you are depriving yourself and the church of the friendship so desperately needed by all.” Men, come to church to receive and to give. There are many ways of doing this: getting involved in ministry at Destiny Church or whatever church you go to, joining a community group, asking an older/younger man to lunch in order to start a discipling/mentoring relationship, offering ideas for men’s ministry, attending events, etc. There are so many ways to do this, but it will take initiative and work on our part! God has made us his friends, let’s make friends with God’s friends!
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