Strength in numbers: Why men need friends
She hardly knew what else to call it. Though more articulate than most, she could find no better word than homosexual.
Jonathan loved David “as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:3). Jonathan’s love for David surpassed that of a woman (2 Samuel 1:26). Jonathan gladly stripped himself of his position and his armor and gave them to David. They wept together. They fought together. Jonathan was more loyal to David than to his own father, who was the King of Israel. And the professor-of-the-year at my alma mater, unable to come up with any other adjective, stooped to describe David and Jonathan’s relationship as erotic.
“Men need other men to do what God calls men to.”
For myself, I can remember when, as a new Christian, a brother told me that he loved me. I didn’t tear up; I didn’t say it back; I felt uncomfortable — like I was just handed flowers from a man. The spirit of the age lied to me. I thought that love, if it is found between men, must remain within one’s biological family. Anything else was suspect. Male affection seemed to me effeminate at best.
Many men today aren’t quite sure how to feel about relationships with other men. In a climate in which The New Yorker debates whether Frog’s and Toad’s friendship in the beloved children’s series was really an “amphibious celebration of same-sex love,” many of us just wonder if such friendships are necessary. Should we sacrifice to have them? Does it make us weak to want them? These questions in themselves, like a police officer getting a witness statement, reveal that a crime has been committed. Satan has stolen from us.
Men need other men to do what God calls men to. Deep, rigorous, joyful fellowship among Christian brothers is the great need of this wartime hour. The war effort doesn’t need more solitary soldiers trying to merely survive for their families. Isolated GIs and army-less generals pose no real threat. To advance, we need the strength that comes from numbers: “Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Men Under Fire
Although many men have been trained to deny it, we desire friendship. When honesty prevails, grown men miss the days of sword fighting, tackle football in the backyard, and watching Karate Kid past bedtime. A strange ache groans through the cracks of our self-sufficiency.
And it’s not as though brotherhood cannot be found. We see examples of it in at least two places outside of the church: the military and gangs. Warfare, it seems, breeds a brotherhood foreign in peacetime. A brother is born for — and created in — adversity (Proverbs 17:17). The fires of combat meld men into brothers.
And here lies the great irony: Christian men fight in the greatest war imaginable, yet rarely experience such comradeship. We are deployed against a supernatural enemy, and as shells fly all around us, we split up, each to his own way. We battle for higher stakes than any other conflict the world has known, and we go for it solo. And as we individually charge the enemy’s machine-gun nest, we wonder why we routinely are cut down. Foolishness and pride, not courage and faith, lead us to storm the gates of hell alone.
“To advance, we need the strength that comes from numbers.”
As Christian men we sit on the white horse, generals of families and churches, while Satan snipes at us with special persistence. We are men under fire. And men under fire survive where a man under fire doesn’t. Our enemy has been implementing divide and conquer since Cain and Abel. Few of us know the immense privilege that Whitefield speaks of when he states,
It [is] an invaluable privilege to have a company of fellow soldiers continually about us, animating and exhorting each other to stand our ground, to keep our ranks, and manfully to follow the Captain of our Salvation, though it be through a sea of blood.
Why do we not band together as brothers in arms? Because we have forgotten that we are at war. We sail through life oblivious of the submarine’s torpedo — until we’ve been hit. Too few of our churches have blood brothers because too few of our churches know wartime bloodshed.
When Pews Become Trenches
When the church is on mission, men, out of sheer necessity and love for their families and fellow man, will act more manfully. When the deception of peacetime is exposed, men will see snipers shooting at their brother through pornography. They will see missiles of worldliness fired at their children. They will see the serpent trying to entangle their wives in barbed wires. And they will see souls being lost daily under this present darkness. Their manliness will forbid passivity. They will button up the uniform and go to war.
And wisdom will teach them not to charge in alone. “Surrounded with millions of foes without, and infected with a legion of enemies within,” we will have need for men in our lives to warn us of land mines, encourage us when we’re exhausted, and drag us to safety when we have been hit.
“Why do we not band together as brothers in arms? Because we have forgotten that we are at war.”
When we are convinced that we stand in a war zone, invading a contested beach against spiritual forces of evil, we will not be content to only gather for the ballgame or work on home projects. We will meet to study God’s word. We will meet to pray together. We will meet to discuss our struggles, victories, aspirations, and ambitions.
We will stay in contact throughout the week. We will strategize. We will help each other amputate limbs. We will speak hard truths to one another. We will laugh together. We will bleed together. We will survive together. Their struggles will become our struggles, and their souls will be part of our responsibility.
Where to Find the Lion-Faced
The Almighty rallied fierce warriors around David, whom he made king, to form “an army of God” (1 Chronicles 12:22). Today Christ, the King of David, is compiling another army in his church. Men “whose faces [are] like the faces of lions and who [are] swift as gazelles upon the mountains” (1 Chronicles 12:8) lead the charge.
But how shall we find such mighty men?
C.S. Lewis helps clarify, “You will not find the warrior, the poet, the philosopher, or the Christian by staring into his eyes as if he were your mistress: better to fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him.”
We must be on mission together. Men with drawn swords win fellow Spirit-filled soldiers. Invest time in the bastion of the local church. Serve. Initiate. Pray. Sacrifice for your family. Submit to your church leadership. Dream up new ways to reach your community and win the lost. Find the courage to ask a brother to coffee. Or better, read through a book of the Bible together. God will bless your efforts in due time.
For King and Country
We live in a peculiar time: between the cross and eternity, between the marriage proposal and the wedding day, between D-day and V-day. Life between the ages is an epic quest, not the consummation of a great Romance — a Fellowship of the Ring, not The Notebook. Jesus gave us a mission. The Great War rages. God calls men to band together to be the kind of husbands, fathers, neighbors, and Christians we must be.
Perhaps if my professor hadn’t long lost sight of the war, if she heard bombs exploding and saw men falling, she would have found another word for David’s and Jonathan’s friendship: valiant.
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