We face a problem in the church. We’re often too busy fighting with each other and we’re failing to fight for each other. We need to learn to fight for each other with every weapon in our arsenal.
Each of us stands functionally alone unless we have a brotherhood (a band of brothers, a community, a network) that we gather ourselves in and around. Peter reminds us: “be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
I’m sick of fighting with other believers and other pastors over menial things. I’m really excited about fighting for one another.
A Picture of Brotherhood from Ancient Athens
Aristotle wrote about a custom in Athens wherein young men, at the age of eighteen, would begin to prepare for war and for life. For two years, these men would be led by three “fathers” who would take them through the rituals that would train them to go to war, and to stand up for one another.
At the end of that two-year period, they would come together to take an oath, clad in full armor, and clasping the hand of an older gentleman – an older Athenian who had gone through the same process, who had walked them through training. They would stand together and recite what is known as the Athenian or Ephebic Oath:
“I will never bring reproach upon my hallowed arms, nor will I desert the comrade at whose side I stand. But I will defend our alters and our hearths, singlehanded or supported by many. My native land I will not leave a diminished heritage but one greater and better than when I received it. I will obey whoever is in authority and submit to the established laws and all others which the people shall harmoniously enact. If anyone tries to overthrow the constitution or disobey it, I will not permit him, but will come to its defense, singlehanded or with the support of all.”
When I read this, I thought of the local church, and I thought of the Acts 29 Network. There’s something unique among this brethren who will stand with you. It’s very rare that other men will stand with you, much less clasp your arm, and say “I will stand arm in arm, and fight with you.”
Four Characteristics of a Gospel Friendship
The way we fight for each other is through a gospel friendship. Through the lens of 1 Peter 5, I see the following.
- A gospel friend initiates a reproducible example as an image-bearer of Jesus. Shepherd the flock of God and be an example to the flock of God.
- A gospel friend initiates relationships in spite of his own personal needs. The glory of God to be revealed motivates this interaction. You have junk in your life and it isn’t when you get all your junk ‘done’ that you serve others. You are fighting and serving while you hurt.
- A gospel friend initiates relationships with the people among them. Shepherd the flock of Godthat is among you. God has put us in relationships, and we don’t have to look far. Stop overlooking the people in front of you in search of someone else.
- A gospel friend initiates caring acts of service for others. Not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you. Jesus speaks of the hired hand who flees when danger comes, because hedoesn’t care about the sheep. A shepherd cares and serves, and does not abandon in times of hardship.
Adapted and excerpted from Scott Thomas’ 2011 Dallas Boot Camp message, “Fighting For One Another: Gospel Friendship.”