This past week, I had the opportunity to spend a few days with brothers and sisters from a church I previously served at. It’s nearly impossible to explain what these believers mean to me through a paragraph in a blog post. These saints were responsible for some of the sweetest years for my wife and I. They cared for us, walked with us, wept with us, prayed with us, rejoiced with us, broke bread with us, and were just simply with us. We love them, deeply.
Yet, our few days with them had to come to an end and it came time for us to get back into our car, and drive hours away from those we had spent years with. For the first hour of the ride, both misty-eyed and with full hearts, my wife and I recounted stories of our favorite memories with those members.
During that car ride, I was feeling a paradox that occurs in Christian friendships that, truthfully, hurts – yet is somehow glorious. The painful paradox of Christian friendship is that we’re called to dive deep into relationship with one another and, at the same time, many of us receive another calling - to go.
Relationships Like No Other
Friendships between Christians are a bit of a peculiar thing. We know that eternally all we need is Christ, yet we feel temporally that we have a desperate need for each other. God shows off his kindness in fewer things more than allowing his children to walk through their days with one another. We are called to a laundry list of “one another” imperatives: love one another, rebuke one another, bear one another’s burdens, forgive one another, provide for one another, and so forth the glorious commands to live for the good of another go.
The relationships between believers is different because it’s not built around a small commonality of cultural taste or preference; it’s built around seeing to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God as we march hand and hand with our brothers and sisters towards the promise land. This eternal drum beat that our feet move to causes a bond that other friendships just can’t quite have. They are deep, they are meaningful, and they stir our affections for Jesus.
The Painful Call to Go
It is often in the middle of living these kinds of relationships with fellow believers that we experience the undeniable call to go. Go to a different city, a different state, a different part of the world for the sake of the advancement of the gospel and the glory of God.
We’ve done the work of rooting our lives in the lives of others - hours invested into planting our roots deeper and deeper in Christian friendship - and then the call of the gospel that can feel like an ax uprooting years of developing intimate relationships. I’ve known many brothers and sisters who have left the place they’ve called home for the sake of the gospel with sincere excitement for what God might do in a new place, mixed with sincere pain of leaving loved ones behind. Friends, many times the call to go can feel like a graced-laced dagger that pierces us; yet, hear me say, it is worth it.
A Worthy Pain
While not all of us are called to leave our homes to take the gospel to a new location, to those who are, it’s a worthy task. Where there is pain in leaving friendships back home, there is a world of joy to be had in obedience. There is surely joy in seeing non-believers in the new place you’ve been called for the first time be captivated by Jesus. There is surely joy to be had in seeing the church you’ve been called to plant become healthy. There is surely joy in mentoring people into maturity you didn’t even know existed a year ago. There is joy in obedience.
If God is calling you to experience the painful paradox of Christian friendship, know this brothers and sisters, he is good. He was good in providing you those deep friendships back home and he will be good in providing when you uproot your life.
There is a painful paradox when it comes to Christian friendships – yet it is a worthy pain.
It is worth it to invest yourself deeply into other brothers and sisters and allow them to do the same in a way that leads to closeness only Christians can experience
And it is worth it, if God calls for it, to leave those relationships for an unfamiliar land in hopes that people would treasure Christ and cherish the gospel more by your being there.
He is worth it.