It used to bother me that I didn’t have a “bestie”. I thought I was a little bit less, somehow, because I couldn’t name someone as my exclusive nearest and dearest in the realms of friendship. You know the kind. The kind who proudly declared that I was their BFF and I could declare it back. Joined at the hip. We might have crawled around in the sun together as babies while our mums yakked on a picnic rug. And as we grew up, the bank of shared experiences made us inseparable. I didn’t have that.
Perhaps it was because my parents seemed to move house every two years (and often that meant schools too), or perhaps it has more to do with my personality. I had a special friendship in high school. We were the only newbies in a class full of established friendships. We were tight. But that was my teens, navigating the complexities of growing up. Now, right now, I don’t have a best friend and I’m good with that.
What I do have is a treasured circle of friends who I love, respect and rely on. Each of them is exquisitely designed by God, in his image, with unique qualities that meet my friendship needs. They are fun and godly and bold and enquiring and strong and daring and sensitive and encouraging and caring and prayerful. Not all of those things, all at once, in one person necessarily, but according to the strengths God has built into them.
We’ve been reading James in our small group and when I came to the passage about favouritism, about it being forbidden, I didn’t think I had any issues. But as the Holy Spirit ministered to me, I realised that my old yearning to be and have a best friend was being challenged.
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”
– James 2:8-9
How is having a best friend showing favouritism, I wondered?
Do I favour some friendships over others?
Does the way I speak about my friendships honour God and the extravagant love he has for each and every one of us?
It’s natural to relate to one person more than another, to enjoy his or her company more than another’s, to feel more comfortable and willing to share in their midst than with others. That’s good. That’s normal. But calling one friend better (best) than another automatically sets up a hierarchy, and hierarchies inevitably hurt those on the lower rungs.
It’s like ranking friends. And what happens if a friend other than the one you’ve labeled ‘best’ considers you to be their ‘best’? Posting that best friend message on social media only affirms one person.
Don’t we all want to be best?
Short of that, we want to be valued equally.
The former is simply unattainable for everyone, while the latter is as Jesus instructed.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
– John 15:12-15.
What’s good for Jesus is good for me!
Of all the people who trod the grime of this earth, Jesus was the most entitled to establish some kind of hierarchy of favoured people. He certainly did have circles of friends; the disciples, apostles and those closest to him; Peter, James and John. But his relationships with them were not to the exclusion of others. He was always invitational and still today we are invited to commune with him directly, as his close friend.
Before I sign off I need to say this too: good friends want the best for each other. We’re not jealous when we see that a friend has spent quality time walking, drinking coffee or shopping with another friend. We celebrate with them. We’re grateful that God has blessed them via another friend. It’s another quirk of social media that we often know the blow-by-blow happenings of everyone’s life, and experience the stirring of different emotions all the more strongly.
Friendship is a gift, not a competition. Some exist according to a particular season of life while others are steadfast through the entire journey. Do we really need to rank them?