Friendship is one of the most important relationships we’ll have as adults, but it’s something most people hardly give any thought. How do we cultivate deep friendships that stay true to what God had in mind for them?
A study on John 15:9-17 & Romans 6:8 for young adults from the Society of Salt and Light, in Christchurch.
A quick introduction to the week’s bible passages and theme, which aims to engage people in the big picture of God’s story, and the challenge of living faith in light of that.
The Adventures of Milo and Otis was an 80’s kids film about the lovable shenanigans of a totally ridiculous friendship between a ginger cat and a pug dog. It’s one of those movies designed to teach kids how to be good moral citizens when they grow up – and what better way to hammer the message home than with talking animals. Milo escapes terrifying encounters with bears, ravens, raccoons, seagulls and snakes, while Otis and his tiny little pug dog legs are in hot pursuit to help him out of trouble. This is obviously furry friendship at it’s best.
And while we tend to have more sophisticated understandings of our romantic and family relationships as we get older, our ideas around what friendship is don’t often grow up beyond these sorts of kids story cliches. For some reason friendship is something most of us will have hardly given any real thought to as we get older, and yet it’s the relationship that as young adults we’ll find ourselves within and depending on most often.
Friends are the ones we spend most of our time with, who shape our opinions, they’re there for us when our chips are down, and give us a default setting on what “normal” is for our world. But young adults often find themselves in this odd friendship transition point – they’ve still got lots of the friends they had from school, and yet adulthood brings on totally new for dilemmas for these friendships to play out in. Sometimes it can seem like our world has changed but our friendships haven’t kept up.
In our passage from John Jesus gives us an insight into what following him might mean for friendship. Jesus reveals his friendship agenda for each of us as his followers, and offers some pretty big hints around what values we should hold onto when it comes to our own friendships.
But why did God create this thing called friendship, and what does a good one look like? When should we forgive an amigo, and when is a friendship unhealthy? Does being a Christian make any difference to our friendships at all? And how do we foster deep enduring friendships in our busy, facebooked lives?
For the Scholars
Discussion questions focusing on exploring the bible passage.
1. Why is friendship so important to us as humans? What qualities make a great friendship?
2. Our passage from should be understood within the context of the “vine and branch” passage just before it in verses 1-8. How does the vine and branch image help us understand what Jesus means when he says: “remain in my love”?
3. Verse 9 says: “As the father has loved me, so I have loved you.” Here the love between God the Father and Jesus the Son is portrayed as the basis for human friendship and love. Later on in John 16 Jesus also speaks about the sending of the Spirit to guide us. How does an understanding of God as Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – offer us our core basis for human friendship?
4. Verse 13 says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Death probably isn’t the first thing we think of when we consider friendship – but perhaps it’s an interesting test for the depth of our own friendships? How do we see this “greater love” illustrated in Jesus’ life?
5. In light of v13 what would it mean for us to love each other as Jesus has loved us? What kind of friend would someone be if they loved like Jesus?
6. In verse 15 Jesus calls his disciples “friends”. Do you struggle to think of Jesus as a friend as well as Lord – or vice versa?
7. Jesus also speaks here in verse 15 of the nature of his friendship with his disciples – that he has shared deeply of himself with them. What would this encourage us to do if we are seeking to foster Jesus-style friendship? What might sharing more deeply look like in our own friendships?
8. The passage finishes by Jesus reminding the disciples that he chose and appointed them so they might go and bear fruit. What might it mean to bear fruit in our love for one another? How might our friendships be an opportunity to display God’s love to a broken world?
FOR THE DREAMERS
Discussion questions focusing on mulling over the theme.
1. CS Lewis once said: “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.” Do you agree or disagree with this? Why?
2. Who was your best friend at primary school, and why were you such good friends? Are the dynamics of a high school friendship different from a young adult friendship?
3. Friendship is by it’s very nature a two way relationship – it’s not just about what you want and need from someone else – but also what you give and support others. What are the qualities that make a great friend?
4. Verse 13 says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” But nowadays in the Western world their are very few things someone would be willing to die for. Is there anyone outside of your family you’d die for? Why do you think Jesus brought this up in the first place?
5. Is there a time when you have felt hurt, betrayed or majorly let down by a friend? How did that experience impact on your ongoing friendship? Do own up when you’ve let a friend down – or do you tend to be defensive and simply end that particular friendship? How hard is it to give and receive forgiveness in a friendship?
6. In verse 15 Jesus refers to his disciples as friends, rather than servants – so what’s the difference between those two categories? Do you find it hard to think of Jesus as a friend? How does thinking of Jesus as a friend both challenge us to rethink our relationship to him, and the quality of our friendships with other people?
7. Also in verse 15 Jesus says he has made known everything to his disciples (his friends) that he has heard from God. Yet following Jesus can put us in an awkward position with our non-Christians friends and the way we “wear” and share our faith around them. Do you feel any tensions between your non-Christian friends and your Christian ones? What impact might following Jesus have to the way we live our own friendships?
FOR THE REALISTS
Possibilities for on topic testimonials, sharing and story telling.
Ask someone in your church from outside your group to talk for 5 minutes about a close, long-term friendship they have and what makes it tick. Why do they think it’s gone the distance? Remember to give them at least a few days warning so they can prepare well.
FOR THE ACTIVISTS
Activities and adventures beyond the couch.
The film industry has a whole genre dedicated to male friendships: Buddy Movies. It’s a pretty loose film category – some have called E.T. a buddy movie – but it’s basic undergirding plot are guy friends doing stuff together, and how that friendship is tested and challenged.
Get your group to pick and watch a buddy or budette film (so, a platonic friendship of either gender) of some substance together, and then discuss how it’s depiction squares with a Christian understanding of friendship, and how it connects with your own friendship experiences.