How to Be a Friend

How to Be a Friend January 5, 2024

The world is an increasingly lonely place. We all know that, and we see it regularly including in the new children’s book Jesus and the Gift of Friendship by Trillia Newbell.

Image: Crossway

In this short book, Zeke and his mother have moved somewhere new, leaving behind Zeke’s friends and leaving them not knowing anyone. When Zeke finds he is lonely, his mother (quite rightly) tells him about Jesus. Jesus wants to be our friend if only we ask Him, just as He was friends to the people He knew in His own day. She points out that Jesus friendships weren’t limited by age or gender or race, and that we should follow His example here and in part by being friends to others too. She then encourages Zeke to ask Jesus for a friend (though she is clear that Jesus provides what we need, not what we want).

All this is fine and true. Jesus is a friend of sinners–for that matter, “he loved me ere I knew Him.” His friendship is of course different from ours in that He was our friend while we were still His enemies, and it is His substitutionary death in our place that transforms our rebellion against Him into friendship.

But what stands out in this book is as much the logistical difficulty Zeke faces as anything. Certainly some people have problems making friends because of personality issues–though that’s not the direction this book goes. Zeke is a perfectly normal little boy who we know can make friends because he had them at the beginning of the book. It may even be that he has friends at school or church, because the emphasis here is that Zeke wants a friend in his neighborhood who lives close to him. Eventually Zeke finds such a friend, but it takes several months before he does.

We have to wonder why. It doesn’t seem to be the case that the friend he makes is new to the neighborhood. So why hadn’t he met her before? Look, I know it’s a children’s book and it doesn’t bear too much thought. But it’s still interesting that I don’t know that this book could have been written even just twenty years ago. The theme would have still been fine, even in the distant 90s “be friends with people who aren’t like you” was common enough in Christian circles. But the idea of moving to a neighborhood and not getting at least a passing acquaintance with people, well, that was less common. The new family in most neighborhoods could expect others in the community to be knocking on their door and introducing themselves and before you know it you at least have a passing familiarity with people on your street. Sometimes baked goods are involved, as might occasionally be help moving in, a lesson on the history of the house, comparisons with former tenants, etc.

That does not happen in this book, and I don’t know that we should assume they’re living in an especially unsociable neighborhood. Instead, I think this is probably just the world we live in. That’s something as Christians we need to be aware of. It may be the case that by merely introducing ourselves to new neighbors we stand out socially (and, I think, in a positive way as well). The world is lonelier than ever, and it doesn’t have to be that way. We already know we need to be reaching out to others to share the Gospel. Now we have a social reason to do so as well.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!