2017 ECPA Christian Book Award Finalist (Faith and Culture category)
Is real friendship too risky?
We live in a world where real friendship is hard to find. Suspicious of others and insecure about ourselves, we retreat into the safety of our small, self-made worlds. Now more than ever, it’s easy to avoid people with whom we disagree or whose life experiences don’t mirror our own. Safe among like-minded peers and digital “friends,” we really don’t have to engage with those who can challenge and enhance our limited perspectives. Tragically, even the church can become a place that minimizes diversity and reinforces isolation.
Jesus models a much richer vision of friendship. Scott Sauls, pastor and teacher, invites you to see the breadth of Christ’s love in this book, BeFriend. Join Scott on this journey through twenty-one meditations to inspire actively pursuing God’s love through expanding your circle of friends.
Scott has met too many people whose first impulse is to fence off their lives with relational barriers that only end up starving their own souls.
Yes, it’s true: Real friendship is costly. Love does make us vulnerable. But without risk, our lives will remain impoverished.
Join Scott in BeFriend as he summons you toward diverse friendship that can enrich your life and, in the process, reveal a better version of yourself.
|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Scott Sauls is husband to Patti; dad to Abby and Ellie; senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee; and the author of Jesus Outside the Lines. Previously, Scott was a lead and preaching pastor for Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City, where he served alongside Dr. Timothy Keller. You can find Scott on Twitter at @scottsauls.
Read an Excerpt
Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear
By Scott Sauls, Jane Vogel
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Scott Sauls
All rights reserved.
A CASE FOR BEFRIENDING
REAL FRIENDSHIP IS HARD.
There are other, less real versions of friendship. The less real versions are "less" because they are less costly, less committed, less disruptive, less scary, less gritty, less gutsy, and less out-of-our-control than real friendship. But here's the rub:
Less real versions of friendship are also less rich. In the short run, they feel better and smoother than real friendship. But in the long run, they leave us lonely and alone. And it is not good to be alone.
Less real versions of friendship take several forms.
In today's world of social media, relating to others through screens has become a chief way — and for some of us, the chief way — to seek connection. For example, it is not uncommon for a group of teenagers to be in the same room together as they "chat" through text messaging and social media without having a single face-to- face conversation with each other. On social media, we "friend," "like," and "follow" each other, sometimes without ever actually meeting each other. As a weekly blogger, I have what is called an online "community," but it falls short of being a true community because self-disclosure flows in only one direction: from my keyboard to other people's screens.
There are many positive aspects to digital friendship. But by itself, digital friendship fails as a substitute for true friendship. Unlike true friendship, relating to others through screens makes it easy for us to hide. It allows us to put forth only the best, most attractive, most "together," edited, and screened version of ourselves. When digital friendships become the main way we relate to others, a subtle but significant shift happens. Instead of entering the messiness of having real friends, we settle for having (and being) followers and fans. The chief drawback is that we never really get to know people, and they never really get to know us. Our digital friends are experiencing part of us but not all of us. When online relationships take priority over real friendship, the result is usually more loneliness and isolation, not less.
My friend and mentor of ten years, Tim Keller, describes another less-than-real form of friendship: transactional friendship. Real friends see each other as long-term companions and give to each other the rare gift of long-term loyalty. Instead of using each other, they serve each other. Instead of keeping score with each other, they support, champion, encourage, serve, forgive, and strengthen each other. In real friendship, the flourishing of other people takes priority over our own goals and ambitions.
In contrast, transactional friendship isn't really friendship. Unlike real friendship, transactional friendship treats other people as a means to an end. When we relate this way, we come to view people more as resources than as human beings. Instead of loving and serving them as we would in a real friendship, we use them to advance our careers, build our platforms, gain access to their social circles, increase our self-esteem (I feel important now, because I am connected to her), impress others (Selfie time! Hey, everybody, look at how important I am, now that I am connected to him), and so on. The pitfall of transactional friendships should be obvious. As soon as a relationship feels more costly than beneficial to us, as soon as the presence of the other person in our lives ceases to advance our personal goals, we discard the other person. Or, if the opposite is true, the other person discards us.
Friendships are one-dimensional when they revolve around a single shared interest and not much else. The shared interest can be anything: a hobby, a career path, a common enemy, an educational philosophy, a set of religious beliefs, and so on. One-dimensional friendships prioritize sameness, so views and convictions and practices are never challenged and blind spots are never uncovered. Friendships like these can't offer the natural, redemptive, character-forming tension that diversity brings to our lives. When celebrities limit their friendships to other celebrities, parents to other parents, married people to other married people (single people, too), athletes to other athletes, Republicans to other Republicans (Democrats, too), Millennials to other Millennials (Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, too), Christians to other Christians, white people to other white people (people of color, too), thinkers to other thinkers (feelers, too), affluent people to other affluent people, and so on, a poverty of friendship will be the outcome. One-dimensional friendships, while having the appearance of connection, can also be quite shallow — unless the single dimension that initially attracts us to each other develops into other broader and deeper dimensions.
A Case for Befriending
In his magnificent book on human connection, The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis says that all true friendship begins when one person looks at another and says, "You, too?"
Starting a friendship around a common interest or passion is natural, and it is not in itself a bad thing. Consider David and Jonathan, for example. One was the son of a humble shepherd, the other the son of a king, and they became the best of friends. Though their social and economic situation was very different, their friendship nonetheless began with a "You, too?" And theirs was the most solid "You, too?" that any two people can have. Because David and Jonathan both loved and were sold out to the Lord, they became the best of friends.
Although their friendship began with a foundation of "You, too?" the connection between David and Jonathan grew in depth, breadth, and layers. A shared love for God matured into a reciprocal transparency, vulnerability, love, and loyalty between them that would later move David to adopt Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth, after Jonathan died in battle. Mephibosheth was a young man, crippled in both feet. But his special needs, rather than being a deterrent for David, became a motivation to mercifully take him in for the Lord's sake, and also "for Jonathan's sake."
This kind of friendship — the multilayered kind that exposes us to the grit of our own and each other's lives; the kind that positions us to love across the lines of our differences; the kind that leads us to lay down our lives for each other's sake — works a lot like two pieces of sandpaper being rubbed together. The friction causes sensations that initially irritate and burn. Yet, over time, the effect on both pieces of sandpaper is the same. Both become smoother, not in spite of the friction but precisely because of it.
Real friends not only agree but disagree; real friends not only applaud each other's strengths but challenge each other's weaknesses; real friends not only enjoy life together but struggle through life together; real friends not only praise one another but apologize to and forgive one another; real friends not only rally around their points of agreement but love and learn from their points of disagreement. When this happens — when friendship grows beyond one dimension to many dimensions — a poverty of friendship is replaced by a richness of friendship. Digital, transactional, and one-dimensional friendship is replaced by real friendship. Everybody matures and grows. And when everybody matures and grows, everybody wins.
C. S. Lewis captured the heart of this version of friendship — real friendship — when he said the following:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
There you have it. Real love, real friendship, is vulnerable. And risky. And costly. And discomforting. And disquieting. And agitating like sandpaper sometimes.
But the alternative is a heart that ends up in a relational casket or coffin. And who wants that?
Befriend is a collection of twenty essays. Each essay attempts to explore a unique picture of real friendship. All of the stories are true, but some of the names and places have been changed to protect privacy.
You will notice a common thread in each account of real friendship: real friendship happens when we move toward the people we are most tempted to avoid. These are the people who are best equipped to challenge our perspectives, push our buttons, and require us to put on love.
Love, the Bible tells us, is the supreme virtue among all virtues. It is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. It never fails.
Do you know what else never fails? Or, better said, who else?
Jesus. Jesus never fails.
As we take this journey of real friendship together — as we learn a little bit more about what it could look like to be those who befriend and who create belonging in a world of judgment, isolation, and fear — the icing on the cake is that we will encounter Jesus in the process.
Let's encounter Jesus together, shall we?
How to Read This Book:
The Best Option: In Community
The best way to read this book is in community with others. If possible, invite one or more people on this journey with you. Even better, invite people whose perspectives, whose ways of seeing the world and God, are in some ways different than your own: people of a different generation, a different gender, a different political persuasion, a different Myers-Briggs or enneagram profile, a different ethnicity or culture, a different career path, a different religious tradition, a different income bracket, a different level on the org chart. Then, over time and as you invest in this conversation together, watch how Jesus works in you because of them, and in them because of you. I can almost guarantee that both you and they will be changed.
The Second-Best Option: As a Daily Study
The second-best option is to read a chapter a day as a personal study. Each of the twenty-one chapters is intentionally short enough to be read easily in a day. Research suggests that it takes twenty-one days to develop a habit, so as a bonus, by the end of this book, you will have gone a long way toward developing a habit of looking at others with an embracing mind-set.
The Third-Best Option: Just Read
The third-best option would be to read Befriend as you would any other book ... alone in your favorite reading spot. It's much better to read a book alone than to not read it at all!
Whatever way you choose to engage these pages, I pray that God will bless you in this journey. Please feel free to respond to anything in this book with your thoughts, encouragements, and disagreements. I can be found at Christ Presbyterian Church — my beloved community of friends — in the great city of Nashville, Tennessee (http://christpres.org).
Your friend, Scott Sauls
Excerpted from Befriend by Scott Sauls, Jane Vogel. Copyright © 2016 Scott Sauls. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Ann Voskamp xii
Chapter 1 A Case for Befriending 1
Chapter 2 Befriend the One in the Mirror 9
Chapter 3 Befriend the "Other" 17
Chapter 4 Befriend Prodigals and Pharisees 27
Chapter 5 Befriend the Wrecked and the Restless 35
Chapter 6 Befriend the Shamed and Ashamed 43
Chapter 7 Befriend the Ones You Can't Control 53
Chapter 8 Befriend True Friends and Significant Others 63
Chapter 9 Befriend Sexual Minorities 73
Chapter 10 Befriend Dysfunctional Family Members 83
Chapter 11 Befriend the Children 95
Chapter 12 Befriend Those Grieving and Dying 101
Chapter 13 Befriend the Poor and Empty-Handed 111
Chapter 14 Befriend the Other Race 119
Chapter 15 Befriend the Rich and Powerful 133
Chapter 16 Befriend the Bullies and Perpetrators 141
Chapter 17 Befriend Vulnerable Women and Humans Not Yet Born 149
Chapter 18 Befriend Strangers and Refugees 161
Chapter 19 Befriend Those Who Vote against You 171
Chapter 20 Befriend People with Disabilities and Special Needs 179
Chapter 21 Befriend the God Who Embraces You 189
About the Author 199
What People are Saying About This
A Christian vision of deep friendship. Wise, biblical, and practical. It could change your life.
Books like Befriend have me hopeful that God’s people are going to rise to the occasion of our moment in history with God’s goodness and grace. I pray that as you read through each of these chapters, you might add more serious and diverse friendships to enrich and expand your view of what God is up to in our day. I couldn’t be more grateful for Scott’s voice on this topic.
Scott has written one phenomenal book, direly needed for these times. Sharp. Informed. Culturally savvy. Biblical. This book will deeply change lives and start a befriend revolution. It’s powerfully changed me, and I’m sitting here revived in desperately parched placesfeeling a bit of a holy hush. These pages echo the heart of God.
Scott Sauls is a pastor even through his writing. He doesn’t preach; he cares for souls and gently reminds us of a better way, of the tension and beauty of following Jesus. Jesus was and is a friend. Scott not only writes masterfully about that but lives like Jesus in this way.
As Scott so ably shows us, Christian practice is to a great degree an exercise in friendship. This book is a helpful, practical, and rich encouragement to bring all of our life in line with the gospel.
In Befriend, Scott Sauls provides real rescue from loneliness by highlighting what it means to be in real relationship and exposing the difference between “friending” and “befriending.” In a world full of “likes,” Scott points us back to love. There could not be a better time for a book such as this one.
I’m glad that Scott has taken such an honest look at something we all need more of: real friendship.
In this accessible book, Scott Sauls looks at virtually the entirety of the Christian life through the prism of friendship, and that’s a well-grounded project theologically. When the gospel makes God our friend rather than our enemy, and we are also reconciled to ourselvesboth our sin and our identity in Jesus, our friendthen we move out into the world in a new way. As Scott so ably shows us, Christian practice is to a great degree an exercise in friendship. This is a helpful, practical, and rich encouragement to bring all of our life in line with the gospel.