Hearing that the 2022 Women’s Retreat theme was “friendship” didn’t excite me. I have friends. I have great friends. And I don’t fear making friends. Many have seen me greet on a Sunday morning with a huge grin on my face because I love any excuse to get to say hello to every single person whenever possible. I wasn’t convinced this theme would bring me anything groundbreaking. As it turned out, although my worldview wasn’t shaken, I was still deeply encouraged at the retreat by truths I needed to hear about friendship in each of the three messages.
I was encouraged and reminded of the role of Jesus in friendship through the Saturday morning message from Gina Flood. Gina was speaking on nurturing friendships, using the passage Romans 12:9-13 to guide her words. I started with the assumption that I knew where this was going. Romans lists ways that we can be a friend, and I already try to do this. I abhor evil and hold fast to what is good. I love others. I encourage others. I am in prayer for myself and my friends. I show hospitality…. I, I, I. YIKES. That whole statement alone should have clued me in that I needed what Gina had to say.
Gina didn’t start her time with what we can do to serve others, or what we can do in general! Gina started off saying that “Your personal relationship and devotion to Jesus is the launching point for friendship.” We started with Jesus?!? I was surprised, but now it seems so simple, looking back, that Jesus would be the key to biblical relationships—and not the things I can do to maintain and support friendships. Biblical friendship is not dependent on me. The foundation for, the nurturing and sustaining of, and the reason for biblical friendship is Jesus.
Gina then related the truths and encouragements of Romans 12 back to Jesus and the way he demonstrated each of these calls in his life. She talked through what it looks like to be a “genuine friend,” calling us to love genuinely and abhor what is evil (v. 9), be devoted to one another, give preference to one another in honor (v. 10), be diligent, be fervent in Spirit (v. 11), rejoice in hope, be patient in trial, devoted to one another in prayer (v. 12), contribute to the needs of the saints, and show hospitality (v. 13). This list—the same list that I mentioned before with all that self-focus—became much less taxing and looming once I realized we are meant to grow our relationship with Jesus first.
Jesus gives us the desire to build into the church and to love others. Jesus gives us the strength to endure friendships. Jesus gives us the words and encouragements we can share to nurture our biblical friendships. Jesus gives us the wisdom of how to manage and prioritize biblical friendship with busy schedules. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
I am very thankful to all the speakers at the retreat for sharing what the Lord laid on their hearts for us. And I’m thankful that nurturing our biblical friendships isn’t a long to-do list, but a call to strengthen your personal relationship with Christ. As we grow closer to Christ, not only will he help us nurture those friendships, but our friends will grow closer to Christ through our lives—and if we’re all growing closer to Christ, we also will be growing closer to one another.