July will mark 9 years at our church where my husband serves as the student pastor. Over 9 years, this church has become family. One thing that’s become so beautiful to me about our congregation is the differences within it.
9 years ago, there were very few “young married” couples at our church. I longed for those in a similar season of life to join, and the Lord has been faithful to answer that prayer! However, The Lord has also taught me that the beauty of the local church is we’re not all the same. Truthfully, I believe our church families are beautiful because of our differences.
Can we still be friends, even if we’re different?
It’s often easier to invest in friendships where we have many similarities. We don’t quite have to work as hard, and there’s less likely to be awkwardness when differences arise. Ideally, we want friends that parent the way we do, have similar interests, and be in similar seasons of life. It’s easy to check out when friendships don’t match these criteria. I love how Val Woerner warns against this in Grumpy Mom Takes a Holiday, “Our expectations of Christian friendship can end up destroying the very community we’re longing for. We have this ideal of what friendship should look like, and when it doesn’t happen, we opt out all together.” Sisters, let’s not opt out. Instead, let’s pursue friendships and community as Christ calls us to.
It’s definitely not wrong to have things in common with friends or to be in similar seasons of life! There’s great value in these relationships. However, there’s also great value in investing in friendships with those different than us- those in different life seasons, interests, etc. Our local churches are wonderful places to live this out, so let’s look at a few passages of Scripture to determine Truth about friendships.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17. My study Bible explains, “…the image is that interaction with a good man (both as he encourages and corrects) hones one’s skills in handling challenges.” As we face life’s challenges, we need wise friends to help us handle these challenges well for God’s glory. The wonderful thing about our more seasoned friends is they can sharpen us, as they’ve faced challenges we haven’t yet.
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts 2:44. The “all things” wasn’t the worldly things we often identify by- life seasons, careers, parenting styles, etc. The early church knew the only thing important to have in common was belief in the Gospel. That gave them their identity, which therefore fueled their mission. It would benefit us greatly to remember who we are in Christ, and to let that fuel our lives. Maybe, we could be more in “one accord” like the early church (Acts 1:14)- sharing with those who had need, attending temple (church) together, breaking bread in homes together, and more (Acts 2:45-57).
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3. Paul continues with what unites us- one body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, and one God and Father of all (Eph. 4:4-6). Cultivating community with those not like us is a testament to the lost world. Think about it, even lost people enjoy friendship with those like them. However, when we believers have varying views and interests (within the lines of Scripture) on parenting, jobs, etc., but still enjoy fellowship and grace-filled conversations, we show the world our love for God and one another (John 13:35). The Gospel is what unites us! We’re often so divided by worldly issues, like how we educate our children, that truly won’t matter in eternity. The Gospel is what binds us together now, and it’ll be what binds us for eternity. Ephesians commands us to be eager to maintain this unity. Eager means we joyfully work towards this. We joyfully engage in fellowship within our local churches with those like us, but also with those not like us, always remembering the Gospel is what unites us.
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children” Titus 2:3-4. Simply put, we disobey this command if we only fellowship with those in our same season of life. We’re in both of these categories. We’re “older women” to those a season behind us, but we’re also “younger women,” who desperately need the counsel of “older women” in our lives. We’re prideful if we believe we don’t need “older women” to pour into us. We’re also prideful if we don’t allow “younger women” into our lives to learn from us as we learn from Christ. If we’re truly walking in community as God desires, we’ll have friendships with those younger and older than us. We’ll disciple those younger than us, and be discipled by those older than us.
Dear sister, don’t miss out on the beauty of the Body of Christ. Befriend the Mom who works outside the home, though you mostly work in the home. Befriend the college student, though you’re a mom of littles. Befriend the empty-nester, though you’re single and longing for that “nest”. I believe these diverse friendships are a tiny glimpse of what heaven will be like. One day, we’ll all be together with our Savior. Our ages, jobs, and second/third order doctrines will no longer matter. We’ll spend eternity enjoying Christ and one another, so why not start pursuing this beautiful community today?
As I’ve processed this over the past few weeks, I want to close with thanksgiving to the Lord. My heart has swelled with gratefulness for my local church, and that everyone isn’t like me. I thank God for the older saints, who show me what how to live a long, faithful life to the Lord. I’m thankful for our youth parents, who are examples to us in parenting. I’m thankful for the women of all ages who point me to Christ. I’m thankful for our students who inspire me to be bold for Christ. I’m thankful for our children and babies and the life and joy they are to our church. Most of all, I’m thankful to our creative God for all the gift of his local church. In our local churches and in the global church, may we love one another with the love of Christ, so that the lost world may experience his deep love too.
Disclaimer: This article can’t possibly touch on the many nuances of relationships, friendships, etc. Again, we need the whole counsel of God’s Word on this (I think I’ve said this about every post!). This post aims at discussing how we often allow worldly identities/differences affect relationships within our local churches and friendships.
More friendship resources:
- Friendish by Kelly Needham
- God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell (this is a children’s book, but it’s a great reminder for us adults too!)
- The Journeywomen series, “Keeping it Local: Leaning into Discipleship in your Local Context”