Friendship vs Distance

Brad M. Griffin | Jun 23, 2010

When we cultivate friendships with those we serve instead of just seeing them as recipients of our giving, it can get awkward.

Some of the implications of befriending the poor are uncomfortable, even embarrassing:

  • Our patterns of consumption become hard to hide
  • Our possessions become more visible
  • Our assumptions about people who are poor get turned upside down
  • Our primary commitments are exposed, and they may not turn out to be what we think or say they are

In other words, there are a lot of reasons to keep distance between ourselves and those who are poor. Many of them have to do with avoiding the fact that our lifestyles are hard to hide from friends, and much easier to hide from strangers.

So why not just keep the poor strangers? Many of us can recite Jesus response to that question in Matthew 25 (Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did not do for me). As Chris Heuertz and Christine Pohl remind us, friendship with Jesus is at the core of this question.

Jesus offers us friendship, and that gift shapes a surprisingly subversive missional paradigm. A grateful response to Gods gift of friendship involves offering that same gift to otherswhether family or strangers, coworkers or children who live on the street. Offering and receiving friendship breaks down the barriers of us and them and opens up possibilities of healing and reconciliation. ((Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission, 30.))

Friendship offered out of gratitude to God doesnt need to provoke guilt or shame for what we have (or dont have). At the same time, if were going to let people get close enough to be friends, we have to open ourselves to the possibility that it might get uncomfortable. That sounds a lot like the incarnation to me.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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