Back when my husband and I first met the new couple at our old church – I’ll call them the Smiths – we thought we’d hit the friendship jackpot.
The Smiths were our age, with no children, and shared professional and intellectual interests with us. We all liked to travel. We shared the same sense of humor and similar spiritual perspectives. For the first few months of the friendship, we had near-weekly dinners together. We saved seats for each other at church and attended events together and joined the same small group study.
But over time, the friendship started to break down. Not out of malice or anger or conflict, but because sometimes friendships just naturally dissolve as people grow in different directions. They loved karaoke and wanted to go all the time; my husband and I, introverts both, view karaoke as a joint mutual nightmare. They liked icebreaker events and parties with group games and mandatory participation; my husband and I avoid those events. They eventually had a child. We didn’t. We found out that we didn’t share the same views on everything, and indeed disagreed on quite a few things. And so, slowly but surely, we stopped making plans with each other, and stopped calling each other so much, and we became Sunday-morning acquaintances instead of Thursday-night buddies.
And you know what? We’re all fine.
Most importantly, we know that couple still cares about us, and we still care about them, even if we’re not really “friends” any longer in any real sense of the term. When they had their child, I sent a gift and a card and I check in with the new mother every so often to make sure she’s still in one piece. When my husband and I were contemplating traveling overseas to a country we’d never been to before, Mrs. Smith – who had been there with her husband – sent us an entire handwritten guide to booking a room, seeing the sights, and finding useful contacts.
As Christians, I think we sometimes feel that if we’re not good friends with all our fellow believers, we’re doing it wrong. That if our brothers and sisters are not also our constant brunch buddies and going-out companions and soul siblings, we’ve failed or we won’t be able to maintain a Christlike relationship. But that isn’t true.
Christians are a family. And in every family, some members are closer than others. There are people who like to go out together and talk on the phone for hours and see each other all the time. There are people who get together every few weeks. And then there are those who are perfectly happy with getting together over the holidays and nothing more. Believers are the same way.
What matters is that believers love and care for each other – like family – even when they aren’t the best of friends. Yes, there are Christians with whom I don’t spend a lot of leisure time or have much in common, but I know if I needed them, they’d be there. And they know know if they need me, I’d be there. Are there Christians whose personalities don’t mesh with mine? Absolutely. Have I made dinners for them in a time of need? Yep. Have they called me and sent cards when I was hurting? Absolutely. That’s what family is, and that’s how family works.
Christianity isn’t a high school playground, and we don’t all have to be lunch buddies who sit beside each other all the time. It’s okay if we don’t all get along always, or like each other’s habits, or have similar interests or hobbies. It’s possible to live in peace like that, to still love each other when we’re not “friend-close,” and to be there for other believers simply because they are part of the larger family of Christ.
With the spirit of Christ uniting each of us, we’re already as close as we need to be.