by Dan McNerney, Associate Director
Not until I became a parent did I realize the priceless value of friendship. When Sharon and I began raising our children, we learned quickly that succeeding in school, making certain sports teams or exceling with musical instruments for our children paled in comparison to making good friends. We were delighted when they invited friends to our house or when they visited their friends after school. We could see that they were more content and less anxious when they had good friends in their lives. We realized that friends were gifts from God as valuable as anything we could name. When is the last time you dropped to your knees and thanked God for the dear friends you have in your life? What would you do without them? Or, if you need a good friend, asking God for a trustworthy and grace-filled companion is one the most pleasing requests you can make to our heavenly Father.
Last summer, I went on a whitewater rafting trip in Idaho with some of my best friends from childhood and high school. We had a phenomenal time recalling old stories around the campfire at night and riding the rapids by day. However, what we did not expect was getting very close to our guides who not only led us, but joined our community. Two of the guides were veterans from the war in Afghanistan. In fact, they became guides as a part of their recovery from the traumas of war. They told us that since September 11, 2001, four times as many American military veterans have died by suicide than those who died in combat. Our guides told us about a group of veterans in Washington, DC with the Sierra Club; they have recently discovered that outside recreation and community-building exercises proves to be one of the most effective preventative therapies for depression and suicidal thoughts. Suddenly the purpose of our whitewater rafting adventure became much broader. We became instant friends with these war veterans as we listened to their stories and bonded with concern for their pains and hardships.
When Sharon and I married in 1996, we chose Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 to be read at our wedding ceremony, and to this day it guides our waking thoughts and actions: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” We choose to believe the third cord mentioned in this passage refers to our Lord, Jesus Christ. Together with Him, each other and our friends, few things in life can defeat us.
After three years walking closely with His disciples, teaching them everything He knew was essential about the Kingdom of God, the Bible tells us that Jesus gathered them one last time for what we call their Last Supper. The Gospel of John captures the words Jesus spoke that evening in His “Farewell Discourse.” There were numerous themes He addressed, but chief among them was the importance of friendship—the infinite value of abiding in Him and one another no matter what life may throw at them. In essence, He was telling them to stick together in friendship and let nothing drive them apart or tempt them to become isolated. He urged them to stay together in community—with each other and with God:
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me…. This is my command: love each other.” —John 15:9-15, 17
Above all, Christ is our ultimate friend, the one we need to meet and talk with the most every day. His love is everlasting. We are asked, too, to notice the lonely, hurting, displaced people in our lives who need our attention, presence and love. Seek them out and become their friends. It is what God wants us to do. He does not want anyone to go through life alone. From God’s perspective, friends are worth more than gold; they are more valuable than having all the wealth, fortune, and fame a person could ever want. Jesus asks us to hold onto our friends, meet with them often and abide with them as much as we can.
We are incredibly grateful for your friendship and the community of mission-minded followers of Jesus who care about the ministry of Frontier Fellowship. Thank you for your faithful commitment to the world’s least-reached peoples!