31 Days to Building Better Friendships
An Interview with Amberly Neese,
Author of The Friendship Initiative
After a long year of separation, we long for connection. Despite faster internet connections, better WiFi hotspots, and more ways to stay connected than ever before, our lives still feel less and less connected. We desire healthy friendships but feel less equipped to make and foster them.
In The Friendship Initiative, Neese dives into the friendships and connections Jesus made to reveal 31 keys for building relationships such as: exercising grace, asking/answering questions, having compassion, exercising humility, being present, reaching out to those who are different, and more.
Each devotion includes Scripture, a devotional reflection, practical application ideas, and suggestions for reflection and prayer. Readers will find encouragement and practical help for connecting with others in their everyday lives by focusing on loving others as Jesus did.Q: In addition to the Common Ground Bible study, you also have a new devotional that just came out, The Friendship Initiative. Can you tell us a little about it?
When I wrote my Bible study, The Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to Thrive, I realized that in order to flourish in biblical community, one must follow the “one another” sayings in the New Testament. Those verses in the Bible, however, often describe actions, but not necessarily the heart behind the actions. When I penned my second study, Common Ground: Loving Others Despite Our Differences, I found that the examples of the siblings in the Bible and how they navigated relationships were more internal and did not always address the actions that follow. What I needed was to discover and unearth a balance: heart and action, motivation and perspiration, provocation and practicality.
And that is where The Friendship Initiative was born. Jesus did not just come to be born and die on the cross (although that would have been more than enough). He lived for 33 years on this planet to set an example, to point people to God, and to help us understand what it means to live a life of service and love.
The Friendship Initiative is a 31-day journey to help us look more closely at how Jesus established and fostered relationships with others. We will look at his interactions with the sick, the disenfranchised, the religious, the outcasts, and the sinners. We will examine how we might have more fulfilling, deeper, and more meaningful relationships and where they all began. By following the example of Jesus, and listening to the heart of Jesus, we can begin to look more like him in our interactions, friendships, and even conflicts and draw closer to him in the process.
Q: Why is it so hard to build friendships as adults, after all, surely we can find people we share things in common with? Do we need to even have much in common—after all, Jesus made connections with a wide variety people, didn’t he?
Busyness, pride, and a lack of desire to be vulnerable hinder new relationships.
Although there will be those with whom we have more in common and therefore, friendship might be easier, Jesus never took the easy path when it came to connecting with others. He went the extra mile to love others well.
Jesus chose to spend his last twenty-four hours by including washing the feet of the man who would betray him. We need not have anything in common to serve others and that is a good start.
Q: We’ve spent a year largely separated from the groups we were much a part of, and it can be hard to acclimate interacting again. Why is it important to reconnect?
According to a study in January 2020, before we were hoarding toilet paper or facing some of the political and social struggles of 2020, 61% of Americans admitted to being lonely. Depression, divorce, anxiety, isolation, child abuse, and suicide all hit new highs this past year, and it is time for the body of Christ to reach out to help those who are struggling.
In addition, it is important because Jesus modeled it. That is the premise of The Friendship Initiative.
Q: What are some of the most important things we learn from Jesus about relationships?
Jesus was a master at connecting; He had a willingness to get real, get humble, and get on the level of another. He also had true care for those with whom he came in contact and it showed in the way he connected and cared. Our lives should be marked in the same way.
For more information about Amberly Neese, visit her website www.amberlyneese.com. She is also active on Facebook (@Amberly Neese – Comedian/Speaker), Twitter (@amberlyneese), and Instagram (@amberlyneese).