It might be because my social media feeds are still populated with people in high school or have graduated in recent years, but there is a common meme I see shared regularly. There are several variations, but the common ideas is that in high school there should be a class called adulting where young people are taught about things like how to do taxes, how to fill out loan applications, and generally how to function as an adult. I do not think those commonly shared posts are wrong. It would be extremely helpful if we taught young people those things. However, a class cannot adequately prepare people for adulting. Some of it just comes through experiences and struggles. Again, because of years of youth ministry I currently know a lot of people in their twenties and I have seen several of them have the same struggle. It is also a struggle that I see echoed by people who are older and in their mid-thirties. It is a struggle that perhaps some of you can identify with as well: Namely, it is hard to make friends as adults. Remember when we were kids, and just both liking Batman was enough to become fast friends? As we age something happens to that dynamic.
It takes more than just time to create friends. After all, there are people who are co-workers for years but they are barely on a first name basis. For a friendship to really cement there has to be something that creates a bond between two people. A great example that illustrates the difficulties and magic of friendship is the animated classic Toy Story. Toy Story is the tale of how two toys, Woody the cowboy and Buzz the space ranger become friends. They spend a lot of time together, but they do not become friends at first. In fact for most of the movie they are bitter enemies. Woody is full of jealousy and Buzz is full of pride, both of which get in the way of their friendship. They only become friends when they realize they have a connection, a commonality that binds them together. The common connection they share is that they are Andy’s toys. That more than any of their differences bound them together as friends. In much the same way as followers of Christ, we share a commonality and a bound that should transcend any differences. However, the reality is that people of faith have often struggled with how we treat one another. This is unfortunate, because one of things we should be able to say to one another as followers in Christ is “You’ve got a friend in me.”
Unity among believers is a common theme in the New Testament. Jesus gave his disciples a command to love one another, and he prayed for the unity of all future believers. The church in Acts is a model of unity to follow, and Paul emphasized the importance of care for one another in many of his epistles. For instance a good part of Colossians is Paul reminding the Colossae church what it is they have in common with one another. By extension it reminds us today what Christians still have in common with one another. Paul reminds us that that we are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved. Paul reminds us that the peace of Christ should rule in our hearts and that it is through Christ we are all in this together. Paul urges us to let the message of Christ dwell among us. That message of Christ, the message that God loves us, God saves us, and God forgives us is our sacred trust. It is the common purpose we all have, and it is the reason why we should be able to look at one another and say “You’ve got a friend in me.”
That is how it should be, but the church in Colossae got it wrong, and 2,000 years later we still struggle to get it right. Christians who are supposed to love one another can bicker, fight, and argue over the stupidest things. Things that do not truly mater like carpet color, coffee brand, or service times can cause huge rips in a body of Christ that is supposed to be united in love with one another.
It is all as ridiculous as it is tragic. As people of faith we spend many hours together, and through Christ we should share an unshakeable common bond. However, instead of being fast friends we are willing to abandon our brothers and sisters in Christ over something as trivial as coffee. This should never happen, and the fact that it does shows something is wrong. Our relationships with one another are often hampered by sin. Just like Woody and Buzz we allow our own negative attitudes inhibit our relationships. In Toy Story Woody was jealous and angry because he thought Buzz was taking “his spot” in Andy’s room. Yet, a lot of church conflict has been caused because someone gets upset about what other people are doing to “my church.” It is the same kind of possessive jealousy. In the same way, Buzz was to proud and full of himself to be friendly to Woody. Again, people in church can be quick to dismiss whole groups of a congregation as “not their people.” In Toy Story their flawed, sinful attitudes kept Woody and Buzz apart. It was only through the course of the whole movie they finally realized what binds them is stronger than anything that can divide them.
For those who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior It should not matter what divides us, may we be able to say to one another you have a friend in me. Even if decades separate us in age, may we say you have a friend in me. Even if we disagree about how to understand the bible, may we say you have a friend in me. Even if we are on radically different sides of the political spectrum, may we say you have a friend in me. Because that which we share, the love of God, is greater than any difference that comes between us.
We should be united as one in Christ because Christ is all and Christ is in all. May that love more than anything else define our relationship with one another. May we be able to look to those in the pews with us and from the depths of our hearts be able to say, “You’ve got a friend in me. If you’ve got troubles, I’ve got’em too. There isn’t anything I would do for you. We stick together and can see it through, Cause you’ve got a friend in me. You’ve got a friend in me.”