How good are you at being relational? How much time and energy do you invest in building solid friendships that are mutually beneficial?
Imagine a group of six college students who make a napkin covenant one day in the cafeteria. They agree to meet one Saturday a month to work on projects that none of them can tackle alone. The idea is to serve one another, care for one another, and bear one another’s burdens. Their motto could be – “caring, bearing, sharing for friends.”
One Saturday could be given to working through the adjustment from high school to college life, or college to the marketplace, with honest discussion about making choices. Another Saturday could be dealing with the grief over a dying parent after a lengthy illness. One Saturday may be set aside for those struggling to keep up academically. The list of ideas and opportunities would only limited by the willingness of the students to share openly and authentically with the rest of the group. Think of the power of a group of people focused on the needs and interests of others. Imagine using all the brain power you have, plus all that you can tap into with your friends. And not only their brains – but their hands and hearts, too.
The effort put forth and the concerns for one another in this imaginary scenario could easily resemble the early church.
Read Acts 4:32-37. During the first century, the first Christians were persecuted in the Roman Empire and especially needed the support and care of other followers of Jesus. Remember that unlike Judaism, Christianity was an illegal sect trying to survive. Outsiders called anyone following Jesus a “Christian,” (or little Christ), which was a term of contempt aimed at humiliating anyone who believed in and followed the man from Nazareth.
Some Christians voluntarily sold their possessions, lands, or houses and brought the funds to the apostles, and they distributed them to “anyone who had need” (v 35). The early Christians were characterized as being of “one heart” and “had all things in common” (v 32). They had no trouble leaning on one another and asking for help.
As followers of Christ today, we too need the support and encouragement of one another. You may be struggling with temptation, trying to determine how to deal with a difficult roommate, working to resolve conflict with a family member, concerned with a class project that is hard, or unsure how to best manage your resources. These are good opportunities to enlist the advice and prayer of other Christians you know and trust.
Regardless of your propensity for building friendships, all of us can improve the quality of our relationships by remembering and practicing the 5 A’s – authenticity, attention, attitude, appreciation, and affirmation. 1) Be authentic by being the best you, you can be; 2) When you meet someone, give them your undivided attention in the first minute: 3) No one likes being around an Eeyore-type personality (see Winnie the Pooh), so have a positive attitude; 4) Show appreciation for who your friends are by being interested in them; and 5) Affirm your friends in meaningful ways by word or deed.
Live communally. Christians stand strong when they stand together. Be an A-list friend.
Love is a verb,