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Friendship: Tolkien on Going to Church on Sunday

Posted by Joshua Claycamp on

“It is true that if these hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare to go. But... I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom.”

-Gandalf in dialogue with Elrond at Rivendell, The Fellowship of the Rings

Tolkien was onto something spectacular when he wrote his legendary trilogy of Middle Earth and the quest of a few rag tag hobbits, half-lings, to save the world from the doom of the satanic Sauron. The power of friendship is very great. Friendship, or fellowship, is the deepest and most meaningful form of love. The friend virtues of loyalty and fidelity through love and truth define who our Father is, and they must define who we are as His people.

I am, as Tolkien, persuaded that the power of friendship, or fellowship, is a power even greater than wisdom. Allow me to illustrate it this way: I was saved by the Lord when I trusted Him, believed in Him, and committed myself to Him. I knew almost nothing about Jesus, and I possessed only the most rudimentary understanding of sin and the Gospel. But I was saved through my love, trust, loyalty and commitment to someone whom I did not fully understand. My decision was guided by a humble, childlike faith, not vast intellectual achievement. There was friendship and not much intellectual wisdom in my decision to trust God. In fact, in this way it is fellowship with God that becomes our wisdom, both in this life and in the one to come.

The fellowship of friends is more powerful than any wisdom that this world has to offer. Of all the forms that fellowship may take, Worship is the greatest and most important as it is the expression of our friendship with each other and with God. When it comes to testifying to the world about God’s open offer of friendship, the most powerful testimony is that of our worship gathering. The power of this gathering is demonstrated in 3 ways: (1) the opening and preaching of the Bible to hear God speak to us, (2) the praise and worship that His children freely offer to Him and the financial gifts we give to Him in response to His love for us, and (3) the demonstration of love for each other and strengthening of each other that we achieve in our worship gathering. We are a living testimony to the reality of friendship with God when we gather together for worship. We demonstrate to casual observers through our gathering together on Sunday that we desire Him to speak to us, that we love and adore Him because of what He has done for us, and that His love has been shed abroad in our hearts causing us to love others. This testimony is powerful, but it is one that is spoken not through words. We offer a silent but powerful testimony through the physical act of getting up and going to church on Sunday.

As far as church life is concerned, preachers and worship leaders come and go. The Bible may be preached with more or less clarity on any given Sunday. Worship leaders and praise bands may lead worship for better or worse on any given Sunday. But the demonstration of love through the physical act of Christians gathering is eternal and incorruptible. The testimony of friendship and fellowship with God can always be seen in some measure in any church gathering regardless of who is preaching or who is leading worship.

If we really understood all that God wants for us, dreams about us, and desires to accomplish through us, odds are that we would chicken out at the thought of it all. In the same vein as Gandalf expressed so clearly to Elrond, it appears that God trusts more to our friendship with each other and with Him than to our wisdom in order to fulfill the Great Commission. The Apostle John writes, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us,” (1 John 4:12). The secret to it all is our love demonstrated through friendship. The most basic expression of this friendship is the worship gathering on Sunday.

So friendship, fellowship and worship matter.

Witness through With-ness

“MASTER!” cried Sam, and fell upon his knees. In all that ruin of the world, for the moment, he felt only joy, great joy. The burden of it all was gone. It was lifted from his shoulders. His master had been saved; he was himself again, he was free...

“I’m so glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.” (LOTR, pg. 926)

-Frodo and Sam in dialogue after the final destruction of the Ring

In the growing darkness of this world, in the face of all this ruin and spiritual disaster, we are called to assemble. We are called to be together. We are supposed to be with each other. With-ness: that is all friendship wants. God wants to be with us. He wants us to be with each other. That is joy, because it is the image of what ultimate reality is since the Christian faith is true. The pagans, atheists and spiritual mystics romanticise the loneliness of the rugged individual, and they seek their joy in the flight of the alone to the great Alone, but this isolation always gives way to a deeper longing for companionship. The most devout atheists still seek meaning in love. For according to our faith, the Trinitarian God who has never been alone from eternity past made man in His own image and declared that, “It is not good for man to be alone,” (Genesis 2:18).

We must witness to this truth through our own with-ness. It is because friendship, fellowship, and loyalty are so good that their opposites, treason and betrayal, are so bad. Satan’s first and simplest strategy has always been to divide and conquer. He has always sought to turn us against God and each other. But God brings us together again. It is in this spirit that I ask, would you join us for worship on Sunday, friend?


Tags: worship, kamloops, jesus, god, worship, gathering, why go to church, friendship