Exploring a biblical vision of true friendship, this book demonstrates the universal need for friendship, what true friendship really looks like, and how to cultivate deeper relationships.
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About the Author
Drew Hunter (MA, Wheaton College) is the teaching pastor at Zionsville Fellowship in Zionsville, Indiana. He previously served as a minister for young adults at Grace Church of DuPage and taught religious studies at College of DuPage. Drew and his wife, Christina, live in Zionsville, Indiana, and have four children.
Read an Excerpt
To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.
C. S. Lewis
If we remove friendship from the world, half of our joy goes right out with it. This is because friendship is the ultimate end of our existence and our highest source of happiness. Friendship — with one another and with God — is the supreme pleasure of life, both now and forever, and no one can fully enjoy life without it.
Am I overstating things here? If you think so, you'll have to take it up with someone else. I can't claim much originality for that paragraph. It is essentially derivative. It paraphrases perspectives shared by diverse thinkers through the centuries, from ancient philosophers to great theologians and from modern atheists to devoted Christians. All of these agree: friendship is not only one of the greatest sources of happiness, but as essayist Joseph Epstein put it, "without friendship, make no mistake about it, we are all lost."
But we don't often esteem friendship this highly. Every other week my wife brings home from the library about twenty books to read with our sons. The most common theme among the children's books is friendship. Yet very few adult books share this focus. Why is that? Is it because the rest of us have friendship figured out? Probably not. True, some groups of people value friendship today; even so, high praise doesn't always translate into thick practice.
One of the central purposes of this book is to make that translation happen — to help us value friendship more highly and then enjoy it more fully.
In Praise of Friendship
So that you know my word is good about that first paragraph, let's take a brief tour of some historical highlights of friendship. We'll start with Augustine, the great theologian and early church father from North Africa. He preached in a sermon, "Two things are essential in this world — life, and friendship. Both must be prized highly, and not undervalued." I can't think of anyone who would disagree with the first necessity, yet the second may be a surprise. But he means it.
The eighteenth-century American pastor Jonathan Edwards also thought deeply about the most important realities in life. He wrote that friendship "is the highest happiness of all moral agents." That's quite a claim, especially from someone who was precise with words: friendship is our highest happiness.
Esther Edwards Burr, Jonathan Edwards's daughter and the mother of the third US vice president, Aaron Burr, reflects this truth more personally. She wrote to her friend, "Nothing is more refreshing to the soul (except communication with God himself), than the company and society of a friend." She added that it is "a great mercy that we have any friends — What would this world be with out them? ... [Friendship] is the life of life."
John Newton, slave trader-turned-pastor and author of the hymn "Amazing Grace" wrote, "I think to a feeling mind there is no temporal pleasure equal to the pleasure of friendship." So if we set up life's pleasures at the starting line, Newton says that friendship finishes first every time.
These and many others not only highly valued friendship; they also deeply enjoyed it. Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil the Great were early church fathers and well-known theologians. But they were also best friends. Their friendship endured through distance and even significant relational challenges. Gregory once wrote to Basil, "The greatest benefit which life has brought me is your friendship." He also wrote, "If anyone were to ask me, 'What is the best thing in life?' I would answer, 'Friends.'"
We know the Reformation-launching Martin Luther, but his friends also knew him for his "table talk" — his lively doctrinal discussions around the dinner table. His wife, Katharina, also enjoyed her own close circle of companions.
We might think of John Calvin pondering great thoughts at a lonely desk, but "a close study of Calvin's career reveals that friendships were the joy of his life." Addressing two of his closest friends, he wrote, "I think that there has never been, in ordinary life, a circle of friends so sincerely bound to each other as we have been in our ministry." Esther Burr enjoyed deep friendships, especially with her friend Sarah Prince. She wrote to her, "It is a great comfort to me when my friends are absent from me that I have [them] somewhere in the world, and you my dear ... I esteem you one of the best, and in some respects nearer than any sister I have. I have not one sister I can write so freely to as to you, the sister of my heart." True friends are soul siblings.
The Bible praises friendship with as much vigor as any source, ancient or modern. The story of Scripture is carried along by stories of friendships. Naomi had her Ruth, David his Jonathan, and Paul his Timothy. Jesus too had his Peter, James, and especially John. According to the Bible, friendship is an essential ingredient of the good life. The Scottish pastor Hugh Black said of the book of Proverbs, "There is no book, even in classical literature, which so exalts the idea of friendship, and is so anxious to have it truly valued, and carefully kept."
We've seen this praise of friendship span centuries, genders, and ethnicities; it also spans worldviews. Aristotle, like other ancient Greek philosophers, considered friendship indispensible for life. A. C. Grayling, a modern atheist philosopher, claims, "The highest and finest of all human relationships is, arguably, friendship." One doesn't need to acknowledge the friend of sinners to recognize friendship as one of the deepest pleasures of life.
Yet Christians have a deeper warrant for this kind of praise: friendship is the meaning of the universe. We aren't just made for friendship with each other; we are made for friendship with God. Jesus, the great friend of sinners, came to befriend us. He said to his disciples, "No longer do I call you servants. ... I have called you friends" (John 15:15). These familiar words are more profound than we may realize. On the eve of his death, Jesus wanted his disciples to know that the cross was not only the greatest demonstration of love but also a cosmic act of friendship. He said, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). The cross was history's most heroic act of friendship.
History, it turns out, is nothing less than the story of how the triune God welcomes us into eternal friendship with himself. To be a Christian is to know Jesus — and to be known by him — as a dear friend. As the great nineteenth-century pastor Charles Spurgeon preached, "He who would be happy here must have friends; and he who would be happy hereafter, must, above all things, find a friend in the world to come, in the person of God."
For most of my life, I never would have made statements like these. I've enjoyed many friendships but not always with great intention. I experienced friendship but never stopped to think directly about it.
This changed when I encountered a few statements about friendship, first in the ancient book of Proverbs, and then from Jesus. Proverbs struck me with its insights and direct statements about it. I eventually came to see the truth in Hugh Black's assessment: "The Book of Proverbs might almost be called a treatise on friendship." I soon realized this was the first time I had devoted even a few minutes to thinking directly about friendship as a topic. Perhaps, like me, you have never spent a full two minutes thinking explicitly about it either. Friendship is, for many of us, one of the most important but least thought about aspects of life.
I also considered Jesus's statements to his disciples about friendship in John15:12–17. He taught that friendship is the greatest expression of love. It is the meaning of the cross. It is one way in which he wants us to view our relationship with him. It is how he wants us to relate to one another. According to Jesus, the topic of friendship should take us to the heart of the meaning of the cross, history, and love.
This topic is a deep well, and once I started lowering my bucket, it never touched bottom.
Then I wondered: Why can't I remember hearing anyone talk this way about friendship? So I turned to church history. It turns out that many have praised and prized friendship above nearly every other earthly good. We've just forgotten our heritage.
A few things have resulted from discovering the biblical and historical riches of friendship. First, the ancients convinced me that they got it right. Aelred of Rievaulx, a twelfth-century author on friendship, wrote, "Absolutely no life can be pleasing without friends." That's a strong claim. But is it true? I wondered. So I looked back and reimagined my life without close friends. What came to mind was a life void of all my happiest memories. If I removed friendship from my past, half of my joy would disappear right with it. Now I simply cannot fathom leading a fulfilling life without friends.
If you ask me what's best in life, I'm going to give you names.
Second, these elevated thoughts about friendship carried me to a depressing conclusion: I'm not as good of a friend as I thought. I've since found that this is a typical first response to thinking more deeply about the nature of true friendship. After sharing some observations about this topic with my friend Joe, I asked him for his thoughts. He responded, "I'm a really bad friend." I disagreed, but I also understood — thinking about friendship exposes our own shortcomings. Once we move beyond clichés to consider true friendship, we sense we may not be great friends after all. But there's good news: this is only initially disheartening, because discontent pushes us to take steps forward. Awareness is progress.
Finally, I began to approach my relationships much more deliberately. In some seasons of life before this, I didn't think I had the time to cultivate friendship. It was never entirely absent, but I didn't make it central. But we always make time for what we value. So when this new conviction strengthened, it started messing with my schedule. I found myself thinking about my friends, wishing I had more time with them, and connecting with them to make that happen.
That's what I hope happens to you as you read this book: you become a better friend simply as a result of treasuring friendship more highly.
What happened to friendship that we must now make such efforts to recover it? For one thing, we've hollowed out and trivialized friend and friendship. These words now rest lightly on our imaginations. When we honor our closest relationships, we're quicker to grab familial language like brother and sister than friend. I heard someone say to a tight-knit group of Christians, "We're not just friends; we're family." That's true, and the Bible does reference family more than friends; but why the just? Friendship didn't seem strong enough to uphold the weight of the moment.
Friendship often feels light, frothy, and sentimental. Friendship quotes sound cliché: "Old friends warm the heart;" "With a little help from my friends;" "Friends are flowers in the garden of life." Charming (perhaps), but not compelling.
We've also connected it to other trivial words: Chum, pal, buddy. Band of brothers carries much more gravitas than band of besties.
Here's a test: What comes into your mind when you think about friendship with Jesus? His kingly authority calls us to attention, but friendship with Jesus carries little weight. If his kingship connotes strength like a mountain, his friendship reminds us of a light mist. For many, it sounds no different than calling Jesus a little buddy. Some may wonder if the Bible even allows us to call our relationship with God a friendship. It may sound irreverent to you. I'm eager to consider this significant — and significantly misunderstood — topic in the final chapter, but here we can at least note this: The thought of friendship with God rings hollow today because we've already hollowed out the idea of friendship in general. How highly (or lowly) we esteem friendship with God will correlate with how highly (or lowly) we esteem friendship in general — and that is currently at a low point.
We've also stretched out the word friend, making it a broad but shallow term. Like a rubber band stretched too far, too long, friend is no longer strong enough to hold our closest companions. Friendship should be more like a submarine, holding few and going deep. But we've made it more like a cruise ship, filled with lots of nice people whom we don't know well at all.
We think of friendship more like the word drink (a word covering a whole range of liquids) and less like coffee (which is specific, and with its own features). We overextend friend to the point of ambiguity, applying it to almost everyone we know. Our large number of Facebook friends may be delightful people. But we don't really know. We do know all of them are more like contacts and acquaintances than true friends. Friendship now refers to so much that it no longer means much.
Friend has become our title for nice people: if she is kind to me, and if she is not my sworn enemy, then she is my friend. We mean well, of course — we want to honor people with the title, and we want to be friendly to everyone. But if friend means everyone, then friend means nothing.
Friends to Many and Friends to None
It may be that we have made the word friendship broad and shallow, but perhaps most of us still have close friendships. The stats aren't reassuring on this one, though: we live increasingly isolated lives.
One study shows that in 1985 the average American had about three friends, defined as people whom we can confide in, people with whom we share the most important things in life. But by 2004, just nineteen years later, the average American only had two close friends, and one in four had no one this close at all. In other words, we experience fewer and fewer deep relationships, and one in four of us have no one (no one!) to confide in. Some of us may not wish to open up often, but that's not what this study refers to — this refers to a quarter of us who couldn't do so even if we wanted to. The average American has fewer and fewer real friends. We are increasingly lonely, and very often this lasts for long stretches of life.
And this isn't just an American problem. The UK has now appointed a minister for loneliness to address the growing problem of social isolation. "Rent a friend" companies, first popular in Japan, are now booming in other countries as well. Many people across the globe now pay for a companion to keep them company. Why? Because, as whole societies, we've failed to forge deep relationships.
For some of us, this life looks and feels quite lonely. One past coworker described her daily schedule to me this way: "I work, I go home, and then I watch TV until I fall asleep." Same lonely rhythm every day. And as we drive through our quiet neighborhoods in the evenings, windows flicker with the familiar blue glow. Many of us know what it's like to sit on our lonely couch, scrolling through endless social media posts. We're connected to many yet connecting with no one. As we see pictures of friends with friends, we wonder if we even have any real friends. "It's a lonely business, wandering the labyrinths of our friends' and pseudo-friends' projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen, and what they will hear." On the other hand, many of us don't consider ourselves friendless. We don't think we feel particularly lonely. Even now, you may name a handful of people you would call your friends. But how deep are those relationships? How often do you spend time together and talk meaningfully with each other?
One man named Greg told me about a turning point in his life. His wife threw him a surprise party for his fiftieth birthday. Many people came to celebrate since he was well known and well liked. In the days that followed, as he thought back on all the people who came, a sobering insight settled on him: He realized the only person who really knew him was his wife. The men who knew him best didn't really know him at all. They didn't know his deepest thoughts, hopes, or uncertainties; they didn't really know him — not deeply. And he didn't really know them either. After this, Greg took deliberate steps to go deeper. He started meeting regularly with a group of men from his church, and now he's enjoying truer friendship.
Like Greg's experience, many of us live as a friend to many and yet a friend to no one.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Made for Friendship"
Copyright © 2018 Drew Hunter.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
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 Ray Ortlund Jr. 11
Part 1 The Necessity Of Friendship
1 Forgotten Friendship 19
2 The Edenic Ache 39
Part 2 The Gift Of Friendship
3 The Greatest of Worldly Goods 59
4 A Friend Who Is as Your Own Soul 77
5 Cultivating Friendship 97
Part 3 The Redemption Of Friendship
6 A Biblical Theology of Friendship 121
7 The Great Friend 139
Further Reading 161
General Index 175
Scripture Index 181
What People are Saying About This
“‘We talk about community but not friendship.’ Drew Hunter is right, and in Made for Friendship he fills the church’s gap with deep theological truths and helpful practical tools regarding friendship. I’m grateful for this resource!”
Christine Hoover, author, Messy Beautiful Friendship and Searching for Spring
“This is one of those books with that rare combination of beautiful theology, painful conviction, soothing grace, practical wisdom, inspiring motivation, and enjoyable writing. I hope it will bear much fruit in many lives, starting with my own.”
David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
“Drew Hunter will capture you with his compelling vision of friendship. Beautifully written, these pages are filled with fresh insight and practical wisdom. Reading this book will ignite your desire to be a better friend and to savor the joys of friendship.”
Colin S. Smith, Senior Pastor, The Orchard, Arlington Heights, Illinois; author, Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near – So Far
“Many contemporary realities work against our attempts to establish and cultivate deep, lasting friendships. Add to that our sinful tendencies that lead us to isolate ourselves, and it’s no wonder many of us are lonely and, dare I say, friendless. In Made for Friendship, Drew Hunter reminds us of the basic human need for true friendships. And through historical, biblical, and practical wisdom, he equips us to pursue and foster the kinds of friendships that will half our sorrows and double our joys. I, for one, am thankful for this much-needed reminder!”
Juan R. Sanchez, Senior Pastor, High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas
“Meaningful friendships may be one of the most overlooked areas of church health in our time. If we are going to make disciples, the task will bring with it richness of relationships. This book calls us to relational depth for the sake of our own souls, and for the sake of the gospel.”
Matt Boswell, hymnwriter; Pastor, The Trails Church, Celina, Texas
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What I most appreciated about Drew Hunter’s writing is how he better defined a concept that I once thought was so familiar. I am more aware of areas of my current friendships where I can be more intentional with cultivating depth in the relationship. Examining some of my own failures, I am now looking to God’s grace as an encouragement to be a more faithful friend. Hunter does a great job at drawing out the various aspects of this type of relationship. He also includes quotes from the years of experience from many well-known figures as support. Much of this book is devoted to exploring how friendship is at the core of Christian community with one another. By God's grace, Christian friends have a deeper relationship with one another because of their bond of Christ. How easy is it to walk into the church not really engaging with anyone and walking out unknown by those who Christ has called us to lay our lives down for. Hunter challenges his readers to initiate digging deeper roots into their current friendships. I will begin by loving my friends more sacrificially. With this in mind, I am excited to invite others to enjoy Christian friendship by engaging them with the gospel.
I thoroughly enjoyed Drew Hunter’s Made for Friendship. Especially in an individualistic and digitized culture, Hunter’s call to value and pursue true Christian friendship is needed and encouraging. Hunter does a great job of communicating the importance of friendship drawing on many saints in the history of the church. He also provides a biblical theology of friendship that clarifies what friendship looks like according to God. The book does provide practical suggestions and reflection questions for the reader but given most readers are not naturals at friendship, more specific comments on growing in one’s ability to make and be a friend (especially with people in our workplaces or churches that are not like us) could have been helpful. As I’m in a life stage in which it’s easy to devalue friendship (busyness with ministry and three young children), I found Hunter’s book personally refreshing and challenging. The main application for me is to deliberately pursue friendships and grow certain acquaintanceships into friendships. While the importance as well as the time and energy demands of family and work are obvious to most people, the importance and worthwhile commitment of friendship tends to be downplayed. Hopefully, many people can read this book and make the most of the present opportunities for friendship now, knowing it will be a worthwhile pursuit. I received a complimentary copy from Crossway’s Blog Book Review program.
Drew Hunter published Made for Friendship: the Relationships that Halve Our Sorrows and Double our Joys through Crossway in 2018. Hunter insists on "raising our esteem for friendship" (14), and he succeeds by enhancing our conception of it. Distinguishing his view from the normal usage of "friendship," Hunter goes so far as to define salvation as friendship with god (23) and to exclaim that "friendship is the ultimate end of our existence and our highest source of happiness" (19). No small part of our lives, then. Hunter does well establishing friendship as an essential feature of our world, noting that god had to fill a lack in the prelapsarian cosmos when he created the woman, because it was "not good" for the man to be alone (41). This was certainly the most interesting argument of the book, as far as I'm concerned--and one which I will pursue further in my own studies; it suggests something a bit strange about god's creative process, which, if true, means we've ignored important parts of the creation narrative. Another interesting facet of the book is Hunter's appropriation of Vanhoozer's argument that the Trinity created all things in order to further perfect its already perfect communion; the entrance of men and women into the perichoretic friendship of the godhead does not detract from the essential perfection of the godhead but adds to it. Again, if this is the case, it suggests a few things about divine simplicity and the nature of god. These somewhat abstract concerns aside, Hunter offers a variety of solid reasons for embracing friendship and seeking out opportunities to grow in our ability to befriend. (Hunter disavows friendliness as mere courtesy, a point well-taken.) Friendship enhances our own lives and the lives of those around us, and we do well to become better friends. At its core, Made for Friendship is pastoral. Hunter wants his readers to become more like the people god created them to be, particularly insofar as their "friendship" with Jesus is concerned. At times, especially toward the end as Hunter explicitly addresses friendship with god, the book felt trite. This is a shame, because to be called a "friend of god" is a high honor (Is. 41.8) and marks a kind of restoration of the Edenic communion (cf. Gen. 3.8, in its anticipation of the forthcoming break in fellowship). Nevertheless, Made for Friendship succeeds where Hunter seeks to promote friendship as the particularization of that broad idea of "community." He offers winsome and practical exhortations for those that desire to increase their aptitude for friendship. In that respect, Made for Friendship is worth the read. I received a complimentary edition of this work from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.