Drew Hunter, Made for Friendship (Crossway, 2018)
I have always had a very high view of friendship, but over the last decade I have felt almost embarrassed about it. If I talk to people about how vital it is to surround ourselves with meaningful, deep friendships, I generally expect them to respond with: ‘Well of course you would.’
I am a single Christian woman in my early 40s. Rumour has it there are four single Christian women in the UK for every single Christian man, so despite the continual optimism of some of my close friends, marriage is far from guaranteed for my future – the odds would suggest it is not likely.
So of course I would have a high view of friendship. I have to, don’t I?
Enter Drew Hunter’s brilliant book, Made for Friendship, which caused my heart to sing and ache in equal measure. The joy of reading it came, not because he agrees with my long-held belief in the value of good friends, but because he so masterfully demonstrates that God has designed us for authentic relationships – not just with himself, not just (or even necessarily) with a spouse, but also with a circle of close friends.
In the introduction Drew outlines the aim of the book: ‘…this is about raising our esteem for real friendship so highly that we cannot help but pursue it with enthusiasm and joy’ (p.14). Across three sections, he takes the reader on a compelling journey, first to understand the necessity of friendship, then the gift of friendship, and finally the redemption of friendship.
My mind was blown by quote after quote after quote from famous heroes of the faith. It seems that so many had a much higher regard for friendship than most people do today. Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Calvin, John Newton, Jonathan Edwards, Tim Keller, John Stott, J.C. Ryle… Made for Friendship is crammed full of quotes from the greats that seem almost too strong, too intense. Take, for example, Spurgeon, whose advice is to ‘grapple [friends] to thyself with hooks of steel and never let [them] go’!
Drew paints such a beautiful and vivid picture of true friendship, but it is his firm rooting in Scripture that is most helpful. Starting in Genesis, he points out that the need for companionship existed prior to the fall, prior to sin entering the world. God looked at his creation and saw that it was good – all of it, bar one thing: it was not good for Adam to be alone. Adam had intimacy with his Creator, the Father, yet God still said he needed another person. Building from here, Drew gives us a rich theology of friendship, persuasively arguing that we were, indeed, made for friendship, primarily with God, but also with each other. He draws out half-verses that I had never noticed before, such as Deuteronomy 13:6, which refers to the friend ‘who is as your own soul’, before ultimately pointing us to Jesus who, Drew highlights, did not say that the greatest love was to lay down your life for your parent or your spouse or your child, but to lay down your life for your friend (John 15:13).
But if we were made for friendship, what should it look like? Here Drew draws on stories from his own family and friends, illustrating that there are degrees of friendship, but all of us need those with whom we can forge ‘an affectionate bond’ (p.80) and ‘share the climate of our souls’ (p.29). If Made for Friendship only presented such a compelling case for the necessity of close friends, highlighting to readers what a beautiful gift they are, then the book might merely bring pain to those of us who were predisposed to pick it up because we already longed to live like this. Thankfully, Drew goes further, offering plenty of practical advice on how to cultivate deep friendships. He helps us to see what we’re aiming for – covenant, transparency, and candour, for example – and equips us with tools to make it happen. There is specific advice on sharing conversations, experiences, food, and encouragement.
As I read the first half of the book, I felt the ache of wishing everyone saw friendship like this. Page after page encourages us to form deep friendships, but we cannot do that alone, obviously. And that is where the real challenge of Made for Friendship comes: Drew keeps fixing our gaze on the Friend above all friends, but, crucially, he also urges us to focus on becoming a great friend to others. I think I am a better friend because I read this book. If you delve into it, I’m sure you will be too.