A few weeks ago I met a brother from church for coffee. Due to the busyness of our lives we hadn't spoken for a couple weeks and we wanted to catch up. One of the things that happened during our conversation was this brother stepped up to challenge my thinking and behavior on some things. While some tough love was given, it ended up being a very edifying and encouraging meeting.
During the course of the conversation I shared with him some frustrations I was feeling pertaining to the different ways Stephanie and I use our free time. My brother spoke some convicting truths into my heart about loving my wife (Ephesians 5:25) and about the need to follow Christ's example of picking up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). When I told him I thought watching TV was a waste of time he responded by saying, "So, spending time with your wife is a waste of time?"
Slap. in. the. face.
Gospel friendships set aside the fluff and get to the heart of things. Gospel friends share openly with one another about feelings, frustrations, sins, and desires. Then they saturate the conversation with love and grace and the truth of God's Word.
Two things happened at Caribou that day. I took the risk of being honest, and he took a risk of speaking God's truth into my situation without sugar-coating it (Ephesians 4:15). And the result was that the Holy Spirit showed up and opened my eyes to my selfish sin and judgment of my wife. Since then I've been working to integrate this new paradigm into my marriage and I'm seeing great results.
There is a foundation for a Gospel Friendship that makes this kind of conversation possible. The elements of that foundation are a relationships with Jesus Christ, a commitment to the Bible as God's Word, a mutual respect for one another, and a loving desire to see the Gospel change people's lives. Without these elements Gospel Friendship doesn't happen effectively.