[Davis Wetherell had the chance to interview Drew Hunter, author of Made for Friendship (Crossway, 2018). Their conversation can be found below.]
I’ll start with a general question that I wondered when I first picked up your book: Why write a book on friendship? What can the Bible teach us about modern friendships?
I would have asked the same question several years ago. But then three observations struck me and together permanently changed the way I view friendship.
First, it’s no longer possible to miss that we’re living in a hyper-individualistic culture that continues to plunge deeper into an epidemic of loneliness. And while churches have recovered an emphasis on small group community, many people within these structures still remain largely unknown. We need another step beyond “community” in general—another step into something closer to fulfilling the New Testament “one anothers” in the context of everyday life.
Second, I think many modern people would be struck by how pointedly and profoundly Proverbs and Jesus spoke about friendship. The author of Proverbs zealously encourages us to think wisely bout friendship. And Jesus calls his followers his friends and he described the cross itself as a cosmic act of friendship (John 15:13–15). After lingering with their words, I was struck by how I viewed friendship—and friendship with Jesus—so “lightly” when he clearly viewed it as a weighty privilege.
Finally, I rummaged through church history and found out that we simply don’t view friendship as highly as our brothers and sisters from the past. From Augustine to Jonathan Edwards to Charles Spurgeon—they all valued it as a supreme treasure in life, to be cultivated with utmost intentionality.
I had never thought how Jesus calls his disciples friends in John 15. That’s a powerful, weighty point.
You have another powerful line in your book that resonated with me. You wrote, “Sin is antisocial. It curves us inward and it drives us to isolation” (30). Could you explain what you meant by this? And, how might friendships help us with our individual battles with sin?
We see so much of the nature of sin in its very first appearance in scripture in Genesis 3. The root of Adam and Eve’s sin was to distrust God’s wisdom and goodness. And once they rejected him, they hid from him and each other. They even turned on one another, with Adam shifting the blame to Eve.
We see the same dynamic in our own sin. We sin because we don’t trust God’s truth, goodness, and beauty—we want to be independent lawmakers. And this pushes us not only away from him, but also away from one another.
True friendship—an affectionate bond forged with truth and trust—is a primary way God heals us from our selfishness. God uses true friends to seek us when we hide, to demonstrate his acceptance, and to speak the truth in love.
Your book talks about how marriage is one of many examples of good friendship, but not the only friendship Christians should have. You even share a little bit about how having other close friends can actually make a marriage better! Why is this the case?
There are two extremes to avoid. On one end of the spectrum, a marriage can be neglected when spouses find their deepest sense of belonging outside of the marriage. On the other end of the spectrum, a marriage can become overly isolated when spouses don’t free up space for the other to enjoy other friendships.
My wife and I have found that having close friends outside of marriage not only adds to our joy but strengthens our own relationship together. We return refreshed from time with friends. We get marital advice from friends. Also, we are held accountable for purity by friends. And, we are strengthened in our manhood and womanhood by friends. We are filled with joy by friends. All of this contributes to the flourishing of the marriage itself.
The wisest thing some couples can do to strengthen their marriage is to actually free up their spouse to get time with other mature and faithful friends.
One thing I really like about your book is how you include a bunch of great quotes on friendship from a variety of writers, past and present. Do you have a favorite one?
Yes! J. C. Ryle was a well-known 19th century pastor. In a sermon on the topic of friendship (and I wish many more were preached today!), he said:
“This world is full of sorrow because it is full of sin. It is a dark place. It is a lonely place. It is a disappointing place. The brightest sunbeam in it is a friend. Friendship halves our troubles and doubles our joys.”
I love this for both its realism and its hope. So many of us know exactly what he means in the first half—we live weighed down with disappointment and depression. And yet God gives us “the brightest sunbeam” of friends.
I’d regret if I didn’t ask you about your participation in Crossway’s book series, Knowing the Bible, in which you authored the guides for both Isaiah and Matthew. What’s one thing you learned about the Bible throughout that project?
Every chapter of the Bible connects to the larger storyline of God’s grace to us in Jesus. I wrote on Isaiah and Matthew, and God’s grace was no less present in that Old Testament book than it was in the New Testament one.
It was striking just how much Isaiah pointed forward to the realities about Jesus that Matthew wrote, and just how much Matthew reflected on Isaiah in order to understand the truth about Jesus.