It was so easy once. When I was 9 years old I saw a kid riding his bike down my street. I asked, “Do you want to be my friend?” He agreed and we were friends. Simple.
But now, as an adult, friendship doesn’t come so naturally. I would never dream of asking someone on the street if they wanted to be friends. And if I did, I’m sure they would think it an odd proposition.
Friendship typically happens due to proximity, time and shared interests. It was easy for me to be friends with the kid on my street because we had great proximity (one house separated ours), we were children so we had plenty of time and little boys are generally interested in the same things (bikes, robots, guns, trucks, the usual).
In school it’s not much different. You’re friends with the people you spend time with in your classes and extracurricular activities – so you share an interest in track or choir and you become friends with the other people who are doing the same things. You don’t stop to think about the way that bus rides on choir tour build friendship or the regular time together working on sprints deepens your relationships. You’re just doing things and the friendships happen.
As adults, though, friendships are harder to start. Sometimes we try to hold on to the friendships of our youth. There’s a strong foundation there that we can build on, but if we lack proximity, time and shared interest, it’s difficult to keep building the friendship. Time fades the connections of the past and the old track and choir buddies from high school lose touch.
Work friends are very common. There’s a lot of time and proximity to build the relationships. Sharing interests, no matter how few, will make work friendships happen. It’s just easier to spend 8 (or more) hours a day at work when you feel a connection with the people. But most work friendships don’t survive a transfer or job change. Shared interest is, perhaps, the most important ingredient for creating friendships. The stronger the interest, the more quickly the friendships can grow.
For Jesus followers who want to be friends with non-Christians, this poses a problem. So much of church life is set up to separate and segregate Christians from non-Christians. The interests are all church-based, the activities are church-located and the time is church-focused. There’s the unspoken rule that you should be spending your time at church doing church things with church people.
If you do that, you’ll only be friends with other church people.
Sure, you might have a few work friends, but those are typically superficial relationships. A few people will really connect with coworkers, but most don’t spend any time outside work. So, if all of your interests are fulfilled by the church, you have no space for making friends with non-Christians.