On Friendship and the Value of Mere Christianity

In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. — Augustine of Hippo (attrib.)

Three of my heart’s-sisters are Baptist. So are quite a lot of my other dearest friends and relatives (to say nothing of one of the two church families that nurtured me through high school, my beloved alma mater, and the college where I currently teach).

Another of my heart’s-sisters–one who’s been mistaken for my biological sister, in fact!–is Catholic. And I’ve had a goodly number of other godly Catholic friends and mentors over the years, some life-long, some converts from Protestant denominations of various stripes. As for favorite authors… Bede, Bernard, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Chesterton, Tolkien–need I go on? To say nothing of the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Methodists….

None of these friendships have altered the basic principles behind my theological views or my (virtually non-existant) comfort level with liturgical worship. And that’s not because we never talk theology! We do, in just the way Amanda suggests in this post: respectfully. I understand, even when I don’t agree on the definitions of things or the relative importance placed on them.
More importantly, though, what I’ve found in such friendships is that what we have in common matters far more than what separates us denominationally. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis likens the concept of “mere Christianity” to a hallway from which the various denominations branch off like rooms; it’s important not to hang out in the hall indefinitely, but neither is it good to deny that the hall is there connecting us. He also notes that people whose beliefs are closest to the heart of the teachings of their respective denominations are, paradoxically, closer to each other in terms of faith and practice than they are to people on the fringes of their own denomination. And having known some really fringe wackos in my own church, I can vouch for the truth of that!

No, my Christian friends and I don’t always agree on the details, especially on the points where I’m most adamantly Pentecostal. We all have different gifts, and a lot of us have different callings. But we serve the same Lord, are saved by the same Name, read the same Bible by the light of the same Spirit, and as such are part of the same family of faith. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man or woman availeth much, no matter what name is on the church he or she attends. And every one of my friends–Catholic, Protestant, young, old, married, single, whatever–has made my life far richer than it could have been if I’d even considered letting denominational differences stand in the way of that friendship.
We’re brothers and sisters in Christ. That is what counts.

And besides, every family needs a weirdo to spice things up. :mrgreen:

3 thoughts on “On Friendship and the Value of Mere Christianity

  1. I can attest to what you say. I have attended a couple Annual and Regional Training seminars presented by the International Conference of Police Chaplains in various cities. I find that I have an almost instant bond with some (not all by any means) chaplains from other denominations than my own and I find that my calling is not understood by most in my denomination and that separates us.

    One day tho…. The Trumpet will sound, the dead shall be raised, changed in the twinkling of an eye. Sounds like it ought to be a song. 😉 In that day we’ll be one BIG happy family.

  2. Hey! AmandaBeck stole my line! But then, I didn’t find this one until today, anyway. Blessings to you, Galfriend — from your Calvinist-Arminian, Mainline Protestant, non-denom. sister, influenced by Pentecostals / continuists, Catholic relatives and Greek and Russian Orthodox friends. Love Jesus and people? That’s good enough for me. ; )

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