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Spiritual Friendship

While our church focuses its teaching on verse-by-verse exposition, through the summer we often break for short topical series. This summer Julian (the associate pastor (is that his job title? Something like that) at our church) is preaching a series on spiritual friendship, looking at friendship in the light of the church’s core values.

At his blog he has been posting some great quotes from Hugh Black’s book Friendship, published by Joshua Press. I have blatantly stolen a few favorites and am printing them here for your benefit.

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‘The very existence of the church as a body of believers is due to this necessity of our nature, which demands opportunity for the interchange of Christian sentiment. The deeper the feeling, the greater is the joy of sharing it with another. There is a strange felicity, a wondrous enchantment, which comes from true intimacy of heart, and close communion of soul, and the result is more than mere fleeting joy. When it is shared in the deepest thoughts and highest aspirations, when it is built on a common faith, and lives by a common hope, it brings perfect peace. No friendship has done its work until it reaches the supremest satisfaction of spiritual communion.’

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‘We cannot live a self-centred life, without feeling that we are missing the true glory of life. We were made for social intercourse, if only that the highest qualities of our nature might have an opportunity for development. The joy, which a true friendship gives, reveals the existence of the want of it, perhaps previously unfelt. It is a sin against ourselves to let our affections wither. This sense of incompleteness is an argument in favour of its possible satisfaction; our need is an argument for its fulfillment. Our hearts demand love, as truly as our bodies demand food.’

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The world thinks we idealize our friend, and tells us that love is proverbially blind. Not so: it is only love that sees…. We only see what dull eyes never see at all. If we wonder what another man sees in his friend, it should be the wonder of humility, not the supercilious wonder of pride. He sees something which we are not permitted to witness. Beneath and amongst what looks only like worthless slag, there may glitter the pure gold of a fair character. That anybody in the world should be got to love us, and to see in us not what colder eyes see, not even what we are but what we may be, should of itself make us humble and gentle in our criticism of others’ friendships. Our friends see the best in us, and by that very fact call forth the best from us.

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There is nothing so important as the choice of friendship; for it both reflects character and affects it. A man is known by the company he keeps. This is an infallible test; for his thoughts, and desires, and ambitions, and loves are revealed here. He gravitates naturally to his congenial sphere. And it affects character; for it is the atmosphere he breathes. It enters into his blood and makes the circuit of his veins. All love assimilates to what it loves. A man is moulded into likeness of the lives that come nearest him.

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Friends should be chosen by a higher principle of selection than any worldly one, of pleasure, or usefulness, or by weak submission to the evil influences of our lot. They should be chosen for character, for goodness, for truth and trustworthiness, because they have sympathy with us in our best thoughts and holiest aspirations, because they have community of mind in the things of the soul. All other connections are fleeting and imperfect from the nature of the case.