Each day in Bible study, I would ask campers if they wanted to pray. Every time a primary school camper prayed, they would thank God for the new friends they were making at camp. As we grow older, we lose much of our appreciation for the gift of friendship. These young campers had not yet lost the wonder of friendship.
Friendship in the Bible is a mixed bag. Some people are your friend because they think they can profit by the relationship; they are friends of convenience. They will desert you when things go badly for you (Proverbs 19:4 & Job 19:14 & Luke 21:16). In Luke 16:9, Jesus tells his listeners: “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.” I suspect he says this with a knowing smile. Friends obtained this way will not stand by you when all is lost; and they could not, even if they wanted to, welcome you into any type of eternal home.In some of the parables, being called a friend is an ill omen (Matt. 20:13 & 22:12). Jesus can use the title as an indictment for betrayal (Matt. 26:50).
On the other hand, the term can be used as a term of endearment and affirmation (Luke 5:20 & 12:4 and John 15:13-15).
In short, not all friends are equal. I think the friends made at camp last week are the good kind. These friendships were born not of convenience or the desire for benefit. They were generated by the common experience the campers were having. They worked together as teams in accomplishing things, and they learned about God and worshipped together. They served one another by setting the tables and cleaning up afterward. They helped one another do new things. They shared the common challenge of being in a new place apart from their families.The best friendships are born of common experience, of a shared journey. This is what happened at Pathfinder Lodge last week. In a culture where we can “friend” and “unfriend” people on social media like we choose a candy bar and then discard the wrapper, going to camp and making new friends is more important than ever.
I know I made some nice friends. I hope to see them next year at camp.
Jim Kelsey-Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of New York State.