A friend of mine recently had a few tons of rock hauled in to do some landscaping around his house. I stopped over unannounced one afternoon with a pair of work gloves hoping to offer a helping hand. What ended up transpiring was a wonderful time of conversation, relaxation and a deepening of Gospel Friendship.
Because he had started moving rock hours before I arrived, we decided to take a break, grab some drinks and soak up some sun on his deck. We ended up talking for over an hour, and our conversation was saturated almost the entire time with wisdom, encouragement, discernment, sharpening, honesty, confession, and grace. What was really neat about the whole experience is that is was completely natural in the flow of our conversation. Neither of us was forcing it, asking 'accountability' questions, or trying to make things more spiritual than necessary. It was just two guys who love Jesus and care about the heart's of one another.
One of the key components to Gospel Friendship is a willingness in both people to be transparent. This includes the voicing of feelings, fears, and frustrations, as well as confession of sin and struggle. Most people talk very little about their sins with others. Maybe there is a need for a mass confession of a lack of confession.
However, in Gospel Friendship confession is freely given, and it is received by the other with the offering of grace given back to the confessor. During that time on my friend's deck we shared with one another about our wrestling with different thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Some of it was sinful, some of it was confusion, some of it was simply the product of our human brokenness. The beauty is that we were honest with each other, willing to take rebuke or correction, and mutually seeking a space from which to feel God's unconditional love and forgiveness expressed through the words of a brother.
Besides wanted to help him with his landscaping project, one of the reasons I sought out time with this Christian brother was because I had made a difficult decision that I thought could have potential ramifications for our relationship. I wanted him to hear the news from me first so that I could answer any questions he might have. Because I care about him, I didn't want him to feel slighted or left out, and I was nervous about how he would receive what I had to share. My hope was that the news wouldn't significantly impact our friendship but I wasn't sure.
I am grateful to say that he received the news with peace, and he offered words of affirmation and encouragement. Instead of being upset he responded with happiness for my family and I. He confirmed what I already knew about him, that he is a man who loves Jesus and earnestly desires the best for others. This too is Gospel Friendship.
Gospel Friendship is built on a desire for others to experience the very best that Jesus has for them, even if that comes at an expense to self. To offer blessing to another, in the midst of one's own feeling of loss, is to manifest the heart of God who offered his Son as a blessing to the world through the pain of the cross. Gospel Friendships seek to replicate that selflessness and to serve as a physical reminder of God's love for us.