Beta Group: New Friendships

Philippians 2:19-30

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.  I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.  For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.  But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.  I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.  And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.  For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was ill, and almost died.  But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.  Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.  Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.

Timothy would go out with a return ticket, going back to Paul with news.  Epaphroditus had yet to use his return ticket and go back to Philippi.  News travelled at the speed of a horse back then, or at walking pace.  It's almost incomprehensible today, especially since I've been trading emails over the last couple of days with someone 4000 miles away in the UK.  Communication is essential to friendship, but how much do we get taught about it?  Email has been reviled as the end of letter writing, and celebrated for making it easier to stay in touch.  Form is less important than content, letting the you behind the mask through to your friend.

Paul never made it back to Philippi.  He was executed by the Roman government.  Philippi no longer stands.  Wealth and power is held by other nexus cities like London, New York, Dehli, Paris, Berlin, and others.  Humans crowd into cities by the millions, yet are still amazingly lonely.  How many people know all their immediate neighbours, let alone people from further afield?  We are lonely, but we refuse to reach out for fear of getting hurt.  Relationships do involve hurt, but they go on from it, apologise and forgive.

We cannot be best friends with everyone, there are varying levels of friendship.  We already have something in common with the people in our church, despite differences in age, sex, job, skin colour, education, wealth, skill, personality.  It is a good place to start.  But we also need to have friendships with non-Christians, and not for the sole purpose of converting them.  Non-Christians have values and opinions we need to know, even if we don't agree with them, we can work out why we disagree.  You can't be all of what a Christian is in a saved-only zone.  It just doesn't work.  Our focus should be outward, inward, and upward.  We need friendships with non-Christians, other Christians, and with Jesus.  There aren't any manuals for friendship, no "Friendship for Dummies" books, we just have to work it out for ourselves.

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