Finding Gospel-Centered Friendships

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I distinctly remember the day we were visiting my daughter’s locker before her first day of middle school. The Resource Officer of the school stopped by to chat with us. I was so nervous for my daughter to find friends. There was another family doing the same thing as us and we all began to converse with him. In that dim and quiet hallway, I am sure he sensed our trepidation and nervousness, so he asked to pray over us all.

Philippians 4 rolled off his tongue as he prayed over our children. God’s peace was alive and present in those hallways as he assured us with his prayer that God would take care of our babies. This simple act of prayer and the reminder to trust God has remained with me as my children continue to traverse new situations in life.

As parents, we want our children to have friends and be well liked. The infamous word “popular” comes to mind. Sometimes quantity seems more important than quality. We hope they will be invited to parties and included in fun activities. We shudder at the thought of them walking the school halls alone and lonely, or worse, teased. I think sometimes we get lost in our desire for them to have many friends instead of a quality friend.

As a school board member, I receive many invitations to attend various events throughout our school district. On one occasion I attended a ceremony recognizing the current eighth graders as they were making the transition to their upcoming high school journey. One of the speakers, Mr. Myers, shared his thoughts about finding quality friendships:

“Obviously, no one is perfect, but your core group of best friends in high school needs to be the ones who love you enough to challenge you, encourage you, rebuke you when you’re wrong, and care for you when you’re hurting. If that’s not a reality in your life, then fervently seek to change it.”

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20

During my daughter’s high school career, she spent time with people who made her laugh and didn’t tempt her to make wrong choices. She stayed actively connected to her church community group and leaders. Once on a car ride I asked how she had been able to avoid the pitfalls of some of the sinful activity that surrounded her, and she said, “I decided it is best not to try it at all because once you try it, it becomes easier to do.” Her trust in Jesus and her core group, while small, helped her make wise choices and enabled her to befriend those who did not know Jesus. It allowed her the opportunity to invite someone to church with her and show love to others who did not make the same choices as her.

Jesus chose twelve sinners as his inner circle to teach and admonish so they would be prepared to share His gospel when He returned to heaven. Jesus’ mission was to save sinners and to train the twelve to share this news. This intimate time is where the twelve were strengthened in the Gospel. Along with this inner circle, He dined with other sinners – drunkards, tax collectors, liars, and murderers – teaching his followers how to disciple.

As parents, our mission should be the same in showing our children how to find those friends who will be wise and hold them accountable in their faith. While they are still infants in their faith, we must help them navigate God’s word and point them toward friendships which will foster that growth. Without first having a strong foundation in their faith and gospel centered friendships, the ability to share the gospel with those who do not know Jesus will be difficult and possibly cause them to fall into sin more easily. In gospel-centered friendships our children will gain strength to share God’s love with other students who do not believe like them, and to demonstrate the life saving grace he offers us. For this reason, we need to let our kids know it is ok to be lonely in this world till they find their inner circle even when the Insta pictures seem more appealing than the loneliness.

What God wants for our children looks very different from what the world desires. Many of the students they attend school with also don’t desire what God desires. Therefore, we need to teach our children about Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit so that they know they are never alone in His love. We need to teach them that while we live in this world, we are aliens waiting for our adoption to the new creation being prepared for us. For this reason, it is ok for our gospel-centered friend circle to remain small.

Raising our kids is a true test of trusting our Provider to take care of them.  As parents, we need to learn to trust God will watch over them and provide them with the friendships they need to traverse this sinful world. In Mr. Myers’ words, “You don’t need ten friends. If you have two to three people who truly love and care about you, then you have all you need.” It is with these friends, those who are wise and loving, that God’s love will prosper and protect them. These friendships will allow our kids to minister to other students who need that kind of friend, one who can tell them about Jesus’ love.

As hard as it may be to watch our kids struggle, be rejected, or feel lonely while finding these wise friends, the joy comes in the journey of being patient while waiting on God for his provision.

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