There is another very unique type of friendship - one where friends work together for a common cause. Sometimes these friendships are closer and more precious than the bond between brothers or sisters. Sometimes they involve a number of people at once, not just two doing each other good. I am talking about friends in Christian ministry.
A good Biblical example to study is the apostle Paul, (transformed from the persecutor, Saul), and all the co-worker friends he made as he traveled from one region to another. He remained close to them, and they continued to be very dear to Paul, even though he went far away and could only keep in touch by letter.
The book of Acts is full of stories such as this; Barnabas was an encourager, he was the one who persuaded the believers to accept and trust Paul when he was suddenly changed from the man who hunted them down to imprison them, to one of themselves. On assignment from the first church in Jerusalem the two men went on the very first missionary journey through Turkey and the Roman Empire, establishing churches, or new clusters of believers wherever they went.
Paul was often in prison for his outspokenness, but he usually ended up with sympathetic jailers, who allowed his friends to visit him and provide for his needs.
On another trip, Silas was Paul's partner in ministry. They covered some of the same cities, Antioch, Derbe, and Lystra.
At Lystra was a young man named Timothy, who became a minister and traveling companion too, joining Paul and Silas in their itinerant ministry. This allowed Paul to mentor this young man, whom Paul considered as close as a son.
We can pick up more hints at interesting stories of his friendships in the greetings he added to his letters. Paul knew his letters would be shared around with quite a number of Christians in a given area, so he was not just name-dropping. It was his way of touching, or acknowledging his special friends in the congregations. Here are a few quick thumbnails of Paul's friends in Acts and the Epistles.
In Thessalonica, a man named Jason invited Paul and Silas into his home. This was at some risk for the mobs came looking for Paul, dragged him away and stoned him outside of their city and left him for dead. (Paul may even have been dead a while!) His friends came and helped him to escape. Jason, among others, was hauled before the courts and had to post bond before he could go home.
In Corinth Paul met the married couple, Aquila and Priscilla. They had just been driven out of Rome for being believers, and they were tent-makers, the trade Paul had learned too. So Paul and Silas stayed with them, worked at tent-making, and used their home as the point of outreach to tell others the gospel of the risen Christ. He was able to teach this couple many things they did not know yet, so that when he left, they would be able to carry on as leaders of the church in Corinth.
We don't know the boy's name, but Paul had a nephew in Jerusalem. After Paul preached to a crowd on the citadel steps after a riot, he was imprisoned. This nephew heard of a plot to kill Paul so he came to warn him. Paul saw that the boy got to tell the plot to the Captain of the guards, and that man hustled Paul away to another city a night ahead of schedule. They may not have seen much of each other, but this nephew was a loyal friend of Paul's.
When falsely accused, Paul appealed to Ceasar. This made him a prisoner the rest of his life, as his case dragged on and on before various intermediary courts, but it opened up new doors for him. He wrote a number of letters or epistles full of sound doctrine and teaching which guide us to this day. The book of Romans in the Bible is a prime example. Fifteen chapters of teaching and in the sixteenth he gives greetings to people in Roman, but also from the new friends he has made among his prison guards and visitors.
Paul describes many of them as his fellow workers; Priscilla and Aquila, Epenetus (the first convert to Christ in Asia), Mary, Andronicus and Junias (relatives as well as co-workers), Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion (also a relative), Narcissus, Tryphena and Tryphosa (two hard-working women), Persis (another very hard-working woman), Rufus and his mother, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermanes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, Olympas.
Then Paul sent greetings from the friends from where he was writing; Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, and Tertius (the scribe who wrote for Paul), Gaius (his host), Erastus (the city director of public works) and Quartus.
That's 36 friends if I am counting right! Only the ones mentioned in Romans.
Paul names more friends who are co-workers for Christ in I Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and II Timothy, Lastly there is the short, but very personal letter Paul sent to Philemon regarding the returning runaway slave, Onesimus, whom Paul described warmly as his brother in the Lord.
So if I'm counting all the mentioned friends correctly I see at least sixty friends of Paul's honoured with a mention.
What can we learn from this? I think it is so obvious; people who serve the Lord and are willing to work with others have the most friends! I have found this true myself. The more involved I become in church or with para-church ministries the more friends I keep getting. So many in fact, that I keep losing count!
However, that's all right. The Lord knows them all and I leave it to Him to bring friends into and out of my life as He sees fit. Let the Lord do the bookkeeping, my role is to be fully present in the moment, and always ready to work together with others to accomplish whatever good work is before us. I also take liberty to delight in whatever good friends are at hand! I am so blessed!
Do you long for more good friends? Start volunteering at church and at ministries. That's where the best friends are waiting for you.
[Note: if you missed any articles in this series of article on Friendships in the Bible, and want to read them, you'll find them all linked from this index which is about Friendship]
My novel, Ruthe's Secret Roses, and this related site have a Friendship theme. By getting to know and follow around the heroine, Ruthe, you can learn a lot about friendships, and that there is one that is the golden key to enriching all your other friendships and making them more satisfying. The site is more like a perfumed poupouri of articles and pages on that theme, and I've started a series on the friendships we observe in the Bible and what practical insights we can gain for our own friendships by thinking about them
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Ruth Marlene Friesen
The Responsible One
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Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada