Questions abounded within the minds of people as the evening session commenced – “Isn’t intentional friendships paradoxical?”, “Aren’t friendships supposed to be natural?”, and “Doesn’t intentionality betray genuineness?”, “What’s the point of being intentional?”. Indeed, topics such as intentional friendships and walking alongside one another has been, by my personal experience, few and far between within the Christian community. It seems so blatantly obvious and trite! We’ve had friends for many years gone by now – surely I don’t need to hear any much more of this?
Yet, as the evening progressed, starting off with a sharing by Ruby on Ephesians 4:1-16, many thought provoking truths were raised for everyone to consider and reflect upon. In its essence, intentional friendships are rooted in being part of God’s master plan (Ephesians 1:10, 3:10) in mutually building the unity of the Church and its body. Out of the unconditional love that Christ has for us (1 John 4:19), we are to overflow into the lives of others through our fellowship in seeking and glorifying God.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15 NIV).
Chiefly, in our conversations with each other, this is done through each one of us serving the body of Christ through speaking the truth in love. This does not require any special gift or talent, skillset or ability, competency or proficiency – indeed, all it simply requires is a willing heart that experiences the love of God, and is willing to overflow this love for the sake of the unity of the body. Even in the CCCF Constitution (find it here!), which Ruby astutely points out, we see that it is written that we are to be “seeking to encourage one another in His love”.
The intentionality, as what probably was the most contentious concept of the evening, ultimately stems from a recognition of the brokenness and sinfulness of the human heart – that was are innately self-centered, thinking of our own interests first and foremost above others. A heart that is lazy, prejudicial, guarded, jealous, envious, etc. Recognizing this is key, as we are then challenged to consciously deny ourselves (Mark 8:34) and our self-interests for the sake of Christ and the community around us.
In this, speaking the truth in love then entails several practicalities for us to note. Whether it be consciously being there for our friends both in the good and the bad, being deliberate in seeking and maintaining our friendships, there are an abundance of blessings and grace that we can potentially receive and give through intentional friendships that glorify God. Truly, we never know what God has in stored. Who can we edify, who can edify us, and who would God want us to edify, are then probably all integral considerations to be praying for and discerning in seeking intentional friendships.
Within the conversations itself, to speak the truth in love to each other entails two critical thrusts – speaking in love and speaking the truth. Speaking in love, in love itself entailing many different dimensions and actions, often requires us to open our hearts and being vulnerable – to move beyond a superficial sharing of our lives to the things that are on our hearts. Be they our hopes, fears, anxieties, passions, shame, ambition, or so much more, are we willing to let others in – to be weak that He may be strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)?
In our conversations, are we actively listening to our friends – providing a listening ear and an open heart, instead of downloading everything we know onto them? If there’s one thing we could be doing to speak the truth in love, it is, paradoxically, to be asking more questions and prompting our friends to think more for themselves and for them to reveal the truths of scripture on their own. Certainly, this doesn’t imply we agree with everything our friends say, for it is necessary to also speak the truth (insofar as we know of them!) for the grace of God to be revealed in our friends’ lives. Without falling to legalism and being overly focused on doctrine, we should speak in a gracious and edifying manner, that though the conversation may just be the starting point, we pray that the work would be done individually with God in moulding our hearts to be more like Him.
But yet, through all this and so much more, may we always reflect on the purposes of why we are doing these things. Perhaps we could spend some time this week meditating on the letter of Ephesians and what God is saying to the Church of Ephesus overall. Chiefly, may we never apply what we’ve drew from this evening for any other reason - nothing more, nothing less – than for the sake of the unity of the body. Not for selfish interest, not for glory, not to be popular, not to fill a gap in our hearts, nothing and nothing at all, but only out of the unconditional love that Christ has for us. May we intentionally seek and glorify God in all we do.
If anyone would like to chat more about what was discussed during the session, or what was written, or anything at all about this topic, feel free to contact Ruby Lu or Glenn Choo, or email us at email@example.com! For further reading on this topic, we highly encourage you to read “True Friendship” (2015) by Vaughan Roberts – and why not make use of our library fund and book subsidy while purchasing this book!