What does the word friend mean to you? According to Websters, the noun form can mean:
- a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of physically intimate or family relations
- a person who acts as a supporter of a cause, organization, or country by giving financial or other help : join the Friends of Guilford Free Library.
- a person who is not an enemy or who is on the same side : she was unsure whether he was friend or foe.
I was talking with a friend the other day about our relationship. We shared how much we appreciate each other, the conversations we have, and the way we challenge one another, just through things we talk about. This friend and I frequently discuss "spiritual" things. We share weaknesses in our faith, in our walk, and ask for the others' opinion on a faith issue we are wrestling with. We also discuss everyday stuff, our common interest in photography, and our kids.
I have a very dear friend that lives across the country from me. We don't get to talk as much as I'd like due to her schedule, but we always manage to pick up where we left off with each phone call. We text occasionally throughout the week, but mostly only talk on the phone every other week or so. I appreciate her friendship as she is an amazing sounding board. She is out of my "everyday dramas" since we don't see each other often, but I turn to her for the "big stuff" especially. Without a doubt she is who I turn to when I need prayer. And I am that prayer support for her as well. I can't tell you how important that is to me. She is nonjudgmental but will not hesitate to call me out when I'm caught up in the nonbiblical issues or worries. She's quick to remind me of God's sovereignty and role He should play in my life.
I have several close friends that I can call when I'm in a jam, need a quick opinion, or get stuck without a babysitter. We have some of the greatest times hanging out, talking about our children, our lives, and any other random subject that comes up.
I have other friends that I only know virtually. We comment back and forth on each others' blogs and even email on brief occasions. I consider them friends as I identify with what they write and share, even though our communication back and forth is sparse.
While I have all sorts of "levels" of friends, the passage from Philemon is speaking of a close friend. To Paul, friend meant a "beloved brother and fellow worker" (Philemon 1:1) In writing to Philemon, he is thanking God for him, praying for him, acknowledging his spiritual growth and his Christlike heart for others, and comes to him "appealing" rather than "ordering" him to consider an issue. What an amazing correspondence. Can you imagine how Philemon must have felt to receive such a heartfelt, complementary letter?
I thank God for the friendships that I have and am so thankful for those that are deep but also those that occur simply for comradeship. What about you? Do you have different levels of friends? Do you have one that you can go "deep" with?