Could your friendships save the world? Have you ever posed that question? Has anyone posed it to you? If not, dive into that question here, now. Maybe you don’t see yourself as a community builder, but we all are in one form or another. If...
Could your friendships save the world?
Have you ever posed that question? Has anyone posed it to you? If not, dive into that question here, now.
Maybe you don’t see yourself as a community builder, but we all are in one form or another.
If you don’t believe me, think about your online community.
- Facebook lover? You can hide posts from folks whose political rants or annoying photos make your skin crawl.
- Twitter tweeter? There’s a handy “Unfollow” button to cleanse your Newsfeed.
- Google+ and Linkedin? (_________*Insert their equivalent here).
- Get tired of some emails from an organization (never the Apprentice Institute!), just un-subscribe and move on.
What about more low-tech community cultivation?
- You can block phone numbers so you don’t receive texts from particular people.
- You can choose to live in a particular part of town, with particular people.
- You can choose what restaurants to dine in, where to get groceries, where to worship.
All these are acts of community building. Your community.
The thing is, if you’re like me, you make most of these decisions without much reflection. Ok, the unfollow or block your cousin’s dog pictures is a split-second reflection, but otherwise…
Which means that if you’re like me, your friends look a lot like you, they earn a similar wage to you, and they like at least some of the same things you do.
We talk a lot about the kingdom of God at Apprentice. But lately, I’ve been wondering, where is the kingdom of God tangible? Where do I see it at work? Not in lofty theological terms. On the ground, in peoples’ lives.
Because, to be honest, sometimes I struggle to see it in my own life. Then I read a blog post.
“Before various church audiences I’ve described this as “sacramental friendship,” calling them to form friendships across the socioeconomic spectrum. The focus of this call is upon relationality–walking alongside others in friendship–rather than starting up “a program” to “address” poverty.
And to be clear, such programs are needed, but what I find lacking in many churches is friendship, a face-to-face, first-name-basis relationality between rich and poor. This is what is missing in many churches. Programs abound but there is too little friendship.
And in many ways this call for friendship is both harder and easier than starting up a poverty program at the church.
It’s easier in that you don’t have to save the world. You don’t have to eradicate world poverty. You just have to be a friend.” (Richard Beck, “How Friendship Saves the World: Sacramental Friendships and the Strength of Weak Ties”)
What Richard put his finger on is that all my community cultivating and building hasn’t led me into these kinds of “sacramental friendships.”
Then he focuses on weak ties–those distant relationships and acquaintances we all have that come in handy when someone we know is looking for a job. Sure, you have strong ties–immediate family and close friends–but weak ties are the places where the action happens.
When I finished reading Richard’s post, I realized his weak ties were an on the ground picture of the kingdom of God in action. (He has a great example in his post. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.)
Because when you enter into a relationship with someone who is poor, you’re not just bringing yourself, you’re bringing all your weak ties. And you may not be able to “fix” that person or “solve” their problem, but your weak ties might offer a path forward. (Anyway, when was the last time you hung your friendship on trying to “fix” the other person? How’d that work out for you?)
Your weak ties give your friend access to possibilities and opportunities impossible otherwise. You can open up a community they never had the luxury not to choose.
The Lingering Question
How do I enter into this kind of “sacramental friendship?”
As Richard also notes in his post, poverty (and wealth) tend to concentrate themselves. Many times this happens along racial lines as well. Don’t believe me? Check out my Colorblind Commute and see how your city looks.
I hope this post hasn’t given you any answers, I hope it’s raised questions. I don’t have the answers, but I am searching out the questions.
If you’re interested in dialogue:
1) Drop your thoughts and questions in the comments. Or share this post with your community, glean wisdom and then share widely (don’t forget us).
2) Register for our conference this October: Formation for Mission and let’s explore this idea face to face. Sacramental friendships seem like a great first step to living into God’s mission wherever you find yourself.
Either way, don’t leave this idea hanging. Because if you don’t, I won’t be tempted to either.