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Formative Friendships



Friendships are plummeting at a rapid rate, forcing us into isolation and loneliness. Jacob Harkey teaches us how community in Christ is the antidote. As we cultivate community and authentic relationships, we become more alive than ever and draw people to Christ through us.

Key Takeaway

Lack of friendships leads to isolation. Isolation is keeping us in our sin. Our sin is slowly eating away at us. We do not have to live like this. Jesus invites us into Himself and a community where we can confess and live whole and healed lives together.

Currently, friendships are failing rapidly; at least half of the population feels like they don't have anyone to confide in and are feeling lonely. It's increasing rates of depression, suicide, and other health effects. We are starved for meaningful relationships.

Recently a group of experts got together and defined three categories of loneliness.

  1. Collective Loneliness- no one to share a large identity with, such as a sports team or political party.
  2. Relational Loneliness- not having a smaller group of people that you are closer with.
  3. Intimate Loneliness- not having a confidant or significant other to share life with.

They recommended grabbing religious-like adjacent principles and applying them in a secular setting. They watered it down to a shared hobby like a gym membership or book club.

They are misinterpreting the Church. They watered it down, but in reality, it was a group of ragtag individuals that ended up changing the world. That's more than a collective hobby. At the start of the Second Century, less than one-tenth of a percent was Christian. No one knew then that Christians would continue to grow to this day. Christianity has overcome every division that the world has declared a dividing line.

Paul and Jesus use "one another" often because it is the key to community. Because of Jesus, our identity in Him, and how He directs us to live; there is something different than what the world offers. It's not about a system, it's about relationship.

What does the community of Christ look like?

In Colossians, Paul is setting up who Jesus is and what He has done in chapters 1 and 2. He shifts to practical advice in chapter 3. This isn't meant to be done on our own, we are meant to do this in community. We look up to Jesus, look at one another, and look out into the world.

Colossians 3:1-4. If you are in Jesus, then you seek and set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. Douglas Moo said, "We're meant to orient ourselves around Heavenly realities." This isn't spiritual detachment, it's reprioritizing. When we were spiritually dead, we had a me-oriented life. Now, we look to Jesus. What He prioritizes dictates what we prioritize. This posture is in rebellion against cultural norms. What do your friendships revolve around? Friendships are always born out of something, but there's no stronger bond two people can share than a shared identity in Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:11 says our shared experience of grace in Jesus transcends any other tie. All differences submit to the unity of Christ. Forge friendships that are oriented around the things from above. Don't linger in the shallow places.

Colossians 3:5-10. We need to be eager to see some of our behaviors put to death. Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, and covetousness, which is idolatry, all have to go. This first grouping is the uncontrollable desire for more experiences and pleasures to fill us; it particularly has a sexual connotation. The second grouping is sins of speech; how we talk to and about other people. That's anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, and lying. All of these things have personal implications but have a huge communal impact. They harm us, but they fray the community. Paul doesn't just say knock it off, he says put it to death.

How do we put out sin to death communally?

Through confession. This takes us out of isolation. Isolation convinces us that the dark is safer than the light. In confession, there's freedom in healing. See James 5:8 and Psalm 32:1-3. Sin eats away at us. Confession heals us.

When the people of God shine light on their sin to one another, God will take those hearts, and He will transform them.

There is a helpful and an unhelpful way to do this. It's unhelpful to confess everything to everyone you know or come across. Confession functions best in close intimate friendships. Prioritize developing friendships where confession is possible.

Colossians 3:12. Focus on each other. Paul has reminded us of who we are and that identity tells us to put things on such as compassion, kindness, humility as put on display by Jesus in Philippians 2:6-8, meekness, and patience. It's continual. All of these things play out in community. You need to have another person to be able to put them into practice.

Colossians 3:13. "Bearing with" is the bare minimum. Don't complain, sometimes you're meant to endure other people. Real grievances will happen, but we are to forgive as Christ forgave us when we didn't deserve it. It doesn't free us from consequences. Paul binds our forgiveness of others with the forgiveness we have received from Christ. See Romans 5:8.

Colossians 3:14-15. Put on love. Our goal is to maintain peace and harmony in the Body of Christ and that will only be accomplished through love.

These are not revolutionary statements, these are exactly the qualities we want to find and enjoy in someone else. We, collectively, are called to put on all of these things. We don't get to pick one and say, "No, that's not my thing."

How do we practice this posture?

Focus your energy and attention on embodying the character of the King rather than only worrying about the benefits of the Kingdom. Ask yourself, "Who am I going to be here?" not, "What will I get out of it?" When you embody this, He will produce fruit in you that will draw people to you.

Colossians 3:16. Be in the Word and let God change you. Be around God's people and forge relationships with each other.


"If you are 99% known; you are unknown. If there's 1% of you that you keep to yourself: you are unknown."

Matt Chandler

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Scripture References

  • Colossians 3:1-17
  • James 5:16
  • Psalm 32:1-3
  • Philippians 2:6-8
  • Romans 5
Jacob Harkey Spiritual Formation Director at Passion City Church, Washington D.C.