One day I received a phone call from the FBI. The agent said he wanted to ask me a few questions about a friend of mine who had applied for a job at Homeland Security. “Sure, fire away,” I said.
“No sir,” he said. “I need to do this in person.” He insisted on a face-to-face meeting. The next day, as the agent sat across the desk, I noticed that he looked tense. After a few routine questions about the nature of my relationship with my friend, he asked, “Have you ever been in his home?”
“Yes, of course!” I said. As if on cue, he relaxed. His change in body language and expression was so noticeable that I remarked about it.
Here’s what he told me. “Over the years I’ve interviewed a lot of personal references who claim to be good friends with the applicant. But what I usually find is that they barely know each other. They can’t tell me even the most basic details about the person, like where he lives or how many children he has. But real friends have generally been in each other’s homes. I use that as a litmus test.”
Think for a moment about those you know best—the ones you call your best friends. Have you been in each other’s homes? If you’re a father, how many of your friends know the names of your children? Or even how many children you have? And to keep this real, do you know the names of your friends’ children?
We all probably know the difference between a "friend" and an "acquaintance." There is also the difference between our "circle of friends" and "close friends." Close friends are faithful (Proverbs 20:6). They love you enough to hold you accountable (Proverbs 27:6), to offer counsel (Proverbs 27:9), and discipleship (Proverbs 27:17). They stick with you in adversity, like bankruptcy, addiction, divorce, or loss of job (Proverbs 17:17). They remain loyal (Proverbs 18:24).
Most men could recruit six pallbearers, but very few of us have friends we can call at 2:00 AM. A true friend is someone you can call at 2:00 AM. Someone who will love you when you have really messed up. Three of these 2:00 AM friends can make up for a multitude of disappointments.
My friend Tom Skinner often said, “The most powerful force in the world is a relationship.” I agree. God has designed us for relationships. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he gave Lazarus' friends the task of taking off the grave clothes which bound him (John 11:44).
So how can you develop 2:00 AM friends? A lot of it boils down to chemistry, but there is no better way to develop same gender friendships than to do life together with a few other men in a small group.
Until every church disciples every man…
(adapted from Man Alive)