By Caitlin Magness
In this life, God blesses us with three main kinds of relationships: marriage, family, and friendship, each with its own set of duties and gifts. Much has been written about Christian family and even more about Christian marriage. Historically, the topic of friendship has been of great interest to Christian writers as well. Lately, however, it seems that the topic of friendship is falling out of vogue, not only in popular culture but also in the church. This is a shame, as I believe Christians, and the world in general, have much to gain from reading and writing about friendship.
Like other relationships, friendship is given to us so that we can give and receive love, care, and support. Whether it’s between a married couple, between family members, or between two otherwise unrelated people, friendship provides a stable framework for love to exist. This love can take many forms, from the affectionate love of storge to the comradely love of philia to the self-giving love of agape. And as with all godly relationships, friendship reflects the love of God. But what does the importance of friendship mean for the Christian writer?
It can be difficult for Christian writers to know what role their faith plays in their writing. This is especially true if you’re not writing “Christian fiction.” There can be a temptation to shoehorn religious themes into your writing, but that usually leads to your writing feeling preachy or forced. Not everyone can be C. S. Lewis, and there’s nothing wrong with just writing a good story. The thing about good stories, though, is that they reflect truths about the world. Themes of love, redemption, self-sacrifice, and man’s relationship to the divine are seen all throughout literature, regardless of whether or not that literature is overtly Christian. A Christian writer’s faith and values will naturally manifest in her writing, whether explicitly or implicitly.
If you're a Christian writer, consider letting friendship shine through in your writing. Write friendships that are significant, affectionate, even passionate. On the flipside, write friendships that are messy and painful and heartbreaking. Show the complexities, the conflicts, and the struggles. Examine how friendship relates to other vocations, such as marriage and family. If you’re writing overtly Christian fiction, consider writing about how friendship relates to the characters’ faith. In all genres, show how redemption and sacrificial love play out within friendship.
The benefits of writing about friendship have the potential to be many. As with all positive portrayals of relationships, positive portrayals of friendship provide models for real-life relationships. They remind us of the importance of friendship. They reassure those who are not currently called to marriage that they can also have meaningful relationships. And they enrich our writing by broadening it to encompass a subject that popular culture has left by the wayside. Perhaps, as Christian writers, we can bring it back.
Caitlin Magness is the daughter of a family of Lutheran musicians and church workers. She is an aspiring novelist, college student, and thinker of too many thoughts. She lives in Oklahoma with her family.