I caught up with Jamie recently. We’ve known each other for 15 years and connect over like-minded passion for Jesus, laughter and the occasional good whisky. I’d not seen him in almost a year but within minutes we had picked up right where we had left off. Twenty-four hours later, I was still smiling at the jokes and stories we shared. There’s something spectacularly fulfilling about having friends.

Have you ever wondered what makes friendship so wonderful?

The power of friendship is atomic.

We were created to connect, crafted for community, designed with unity in mind. When God created the cosmos and its custodians, eight times He declared that it is good.” The first thing that He finds to be not good” is for man to be alone.

Mother Teresa described loneliness as the leprosy of the west. In the UK over the last couple of years, the number of lonely people has increased from one in 20 to one in 14. Covid-19 has not been the only epidemic of our times; loneliness too can be deadly.

Scientific studies consistently show that you can be incredibly unhealthy in terms of diet and fitness, and yet, if you have good friendships, you will live longer than someone who keeps themselves in shape, but lives in isolation. It is better to eat kebabs with friends than salad on your own!

The antidote to loneliness is friendship. We were made for it. And it is worth celebrating.

My son’s day is made by the new friend he makes in the playground. We fondly remember our first day at work, not because of the new laptop we were given, or the training we underwent, but because of the relational connections we began to form.

My perfect day ends around a fire with a glass of something sweet, bursting with laughter, surrounded by people I love. Friendship is medicine to the soul.

This Saturday is International Friendship Day. It’s the perfect reminder that we are made in the image of the relational God, that we were made for one another and when we love each other we glorify Him.

So, today my challenge to you is to celebrate your friends. Drop them a note of encouragement, write them an old-fashioned letter, make a TikTok (I’m still not sure what one of those is). But whatever you do, reach out. If you have no plans for the evening, light the firepit and come together to celebrate one another.

And remember, one of the important emphases of International Friendship Day is that we celebrate our connection, not just to those who are like us, but with those whom we share significant differences with too. Birds of a feather do flock together, but the invitation to love your neighbour” in today’s world is to take occasional steps outside of our comfort zones into friendships that may take more initial work, but in which there is a depth and richness in diversity and difference.

As we hear the jangling of mugs at the end of the church service and smell the coffee being poured and wafting through the air, we make small decisions – who we will engage with over the next few minutes? My natural inclination is to gravitate towards the men my own age, who like football. Sometimes that is the easiest and right thing to do. But my challenge is to occasionally sometimes summon the courage to walk across the room to connect with someone I have less in common with and begin to build a friendship.

There’s no hierarchy in friendship. We all get to play. All of us have the divine spark in us to get to know and be known by a friend. Like many things in our world, we under-appreciate its worth and under-invest in its riches. This Saturday, I am unapologetically using the excuse of International Friendship Day to celebrate those who mean the most to me and giving thanks to God for my friends – those who I have a great deal in common with, and those of different ages, backgrounds, stories and worldviews.

Thank you, God, for friendship. Happy International Friendship Day.

All of us have the divine spark in us to get to know and be known by a friend. Like many things in our world, we under-appreciate its worth and under-invest in its riches.