Who Needs a Friend?

Americans are lonely. Really lonely. The coronavirus pandemic has only intensified an epidemic of devastating isolation in our nation. In fact, research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education indicates that 36% of Americans are reporting feelings of “serious loneliness.” And, as if that stat weren’t alarming enough, the number rises to 61% among young adults. Another poll from May, conducted by the Survey Center on American Life, indicated that the percentage of men who say that they have “no close friends” has quadrupled since 1990. Cigna conducted a survey in which 54% of Americans affirmed this tragic statement: “Nobody knows me well.”


Sadly, there’s a verse in the Bible that makes nearly everybody chuckle (2 Corinthians 13:12): “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” I’m convinced that we chuckle out of sheer nervousness. We live in such a sexualized culture that it’s nearly impossible for us to imagine relational intimacy apart from sex. That’s too bad for us, actually, because we were made for relational intimacy. I am convinced that you and I were made for intimacy simply because we were made human. Intimacy with others improves our physical health, our emotional health, and our psychological health. Intimacy strengthens us for the rough patches of life and provides support for us when otherwise we would have little resilience – so intimacy improves our spiritual health as well. In countless ways, intimacy helps us grow and thrive.

Friends, intimacy helps us feel alive, and gives us the sense that we can be more than we ever imagined! I don’t have to tell you that the powerful drive for intimacy can lead to love and war, and everything in between. You may remember Johnny Lee’s country hit from 1980, “Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Apparently, we’re still doing it.

In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis observed that “those who cannot conceive of friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a friend.” I think he was absolutely right. And, by God’s grace and for His glory, we’ve got to do what we can to fix this – especially in the church. The time is now, and the stakes are high – in my humble opinion.

On October 24, The Atlantic published a startling article by Peter Wehner entitled “The Evangelical Church is Breaking Apart.” (I landed on the article through the Ethics and Public Policy Center.) It nearly stopped me in my tracks, and I’ll share with you four compelling quotes from that piece: “The aggressive, disruptive, and unforgiving mindset that characterizes so much of our politics has found a home in American churches” … “But there’s more to the fractures than just COVID-19. After all, many of the forces that are splitting churches were in motion well before the pandemic hit. The pandemic exposed and exacerbated weakness and vulnerabilities, habits of mind and heart, that already existed. The root of the discord lies in the fact that many Christians have embraced the worst aspects of our culture” … “Churches become repositories not of grace but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized. The result is not only wounding the nation; it’s having a devastating impact on the Christian faith” … “Many Christians, though, are disinclined to heed calls for civility. They feel that everything they value is under assault, and that they need to fight to protect it.”

Here’s why I’m including those portions of that article: they simply remind us that everything around us – including many of the current characteristics of a typical local church – are actively working against any and every notion of genuine friendship. Simply stated: friendship is under assault. Sounds just like the devil to me: divide and conquer.

So what are we to do? I’ll outline seven simple suggestions for 2022.

  1. Admit to God that you need friends. Real friends. Pour out your heart to Him on this subject. Ask for His forgiveness for the isolationism which you have created by your own pride and phony self-worthiness. (We’ve all done it, and we all need to repent of it.)
  1. In every human relationship, keep Christ front and center. When He is the main thing, I’m far less likely to make it about me. Humility, though never easy, goes a long way toward fostering the kind of climate in which healthy relational intimacy can thrive, and in which tribal hostilities (sometimes in the church thinly-veiled preferences) can be properly left at the door.
  1. View every friendship as a sacred trust. In a very real sense, because of the immense value of friendship which I have attempted to outline in this blog posting, your relational intimacy with others is of eternal value. Pray for it. Work at it. Cherish it.
  1. Pray hard for your friends. Our most durable friendships go the distance only when our souls are knit together through intercession. That’s nothing short of a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit! In our darkest hour, when we’re truly struggling to love and to feel loved, God often uses the sacrificial prayers of our sisters and brothers to rebuild in us the Christ-esteem which seems to have escaped us. As a friend to a fellow struggler, our job is to remain “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
  1. Stand up for your friends when they’re under assault. It will be far easier for you to walk the path of least resistance in this regard, but don’t settle for that. We need each other when the going gets tough. In fact, that’s sometimes when you discover who your friends really are.
  1. When you drop the ball on a friendship – which we all do – pick it up again. Don’t let even a long season of less-than-perfect performance forge your future. We’re supposed to be the grace-people, after all, so do your best to get back in the game. So go ahead and send that “so sorry I’ve let you down” text today. Likewise, when your friend drops the ball, be Christlike by forgiving your friend whether they ask you to or not.
  1. Thank the Lord for your friends! For the friendships you can already identify, and for the new friendships that Jesus is already forming behind the scenes, give Him thanks and praise. “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).”

Who needs a friend? We all do.

Pastor Charles

Posted in Blog Posts
5 comments on “Who Needs a Friend?
  1. Diane Roberts says:

    “You’ve got a friend in me”!

  2. Sue and Sue Brooks says:

    Dear Charles and Eileen,

    We are so grateful for your friendship over the years. We cherish it because of Jesus and what He has done on the cross for us. We love you both and encouraged to know that “Our most durable friendships go the distance only when our souls are knit together through intercession.” So true!

    Aaron and Sue

  3. Richard says:

    Yep, I’m lonely even at church. I dread the time after church. Virtually no one talks to me; they’re all in their same groups Sunday after Sunday, talking and laughing with each other. Been that way for years, but it’s worse now since my wife has been gone for two Christmases now. I would fall over if someone (not elders or pastors) would invite me to lunch after church. I go on walks on the harbor by myself, to Taco Tuesday by myself, etc.

  4. Len W. Ogden, Jr. says:

    Dear Richard:
    I went to First Baptist a number of years ago, was baptized and subsequently resigned my membership.I did not feel particularly lonely while there, but, after being a Southern Baptist all of my life, objected to the exclusion by grouping that seemed prevalent. So, something had to change if I was to retain the grace of Spirituality. In my case that included both me and the choice of church. Later on, I found that I was not alone and came to understand that
    dwelling on expectations of others usually leads to disappointment and/or even unhappy speculative resentments.
    Since I do not have your last name because not listed in your comment, obviously l do not know whether our paths previously crossed. No matter, I would be pleased to talk by telephone and see if a friendship might develop. Of course, we would have to agree that our time would not be wasted beating up on First Baptist to any further extent than I already did above.Len Ogden at (615) 418-3906

    • Richard says:

      Dear Len,

      Thank you for reaching out! I should have stated that I wasn’t referring to First Baptist. I don’t live near Kentucky either. Now I regret adding that comment.

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