A couple of years ago, a 22 year old rapper from East Harlem named Spencer Sleyon was hanging out with some friends when the conversation turned to who their best friends were. When it was Spencer’s turn to share, he said, “My best friend is an 81-year-old white woman who lives in a retirement community in Florida.”
It turned out, he was exaggerating… but only just a little bit. The woman in question is named Rosalind Guttman, and she and Spencer had met through Words with Friends (yeah, the cell phone game). The game randomly paired them up, and the first few dozen games were all business (er… um… all fun and games?).
Eventually, they started talking using the game’s chat feature, and before long, they were discussing current events and their lives – including Spencer’s plans to move to New York to pursue his music career.
Eventually, Spencer got to go to Florida to meet Rosalind in person, and a tweet of their encounter went viral. Of course it did. We love stories of unlikely friendships, stories of people who, superficially, have little in common, but discover a common humanity.
The reality is, though, not a lot of us have these unlikely friendships. We like to read stories like that of Spencer and Rosalind but we’re too busy or too isolated or too scared to reach out like Spencer did and build a friendship with someone who’s not like us.
That’s unfortunate because there’s a reason we love stories like Spencer and Rosalind’s: we were created to be in deep, intimate relationships – what we could and should call ‘true friendships’ – with people who aren’t like us. Their story makes our spirits sing because we know at a deep level that we need that kind of relationship too.
Let’s explore why friendship is essential for a life of faith. We’ll see that our call to make friends is an echo of what God does for us. Jesus became one of us to make friendship with him possible.