In an era of stark political division and social-media distraction, genuine friendship doesn’t come easy. Which makes it all the more urgent, says Nashville pastor Scott Sauls. In Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear (Tyndale), Sauls especially advocates taking risks in befriending people unlike ourselves. CT online managing editor Richard Clark recently spoke to Sauls about building God-honoring friendships.
Where do we go wrong in our ideas of friendship?
One of our biggest mistakes is to limit our circles to people who look, think, and vote like us. It minimizes friction and disagreement—but also the opportunity to grow, to learn, and to have our assumptions challenged.
We’ve also substituted digital connectivity for real, face-to-face, life-together friendships. This lets us give edited self-presentations, putting our best foot forward rather than allowing ourselves to be fully known. An essential aspect of community is having people know our best and our worst—our dreams and aspirations, but also our fears, insecurities, and failures.
What if we reach out in friendship to someone unlike us, but the other person resists?
You at least need the commonality of wanting friendship. David and Jonathan are a great example. One is a blue-collar tender of sheep, and the other is a prince. For friendship to happen, both parties have to be committed.
There’s a person in our church who has strong blue-state politics. He asked to be matched to a small group with a bunch of Republicans, because he felt that experience would be valuable. Two years later, he told me that people from that group are some of his best friends. They go on vacations together and do things together on ...1