Each man needs a solid brother or two, yet this type of friendship isn’t easy to cultivate today. When the television was invented and placed in every house on the block, men began to spend less time outside. Personal computers allow them to shop, bank, and pay bills online. Facebook, Twitter, and Smartphones have framed their interactions with friends, constraining their encounters to 140 characters or less.
Sociologist Robert Putnam wrote a book called, The American Porch: An Informal History of an Informal Place, in which he describes how the front porch was designed to be an inviting place to gather with friends and family. A man would get home from work, sit outside, and by his very presence on his porch, offer an invitation to his neighbors to drop by for a visit. Putnam points out that front porches have largely been replaced by back patios and fenced in yards. We are a society that values autonomy, isolation, and individualism, and it’s reflected in our architecture. This isolation has the power to destroy the best things in life – relationships, interdependence, and the chance to love and serve others.
There’s a strange, yet powerful, image in Psalm 133. King David states that it is “good and pleasant” when brothers dwell in unity. He likens these close-knit relationships to the experience of oil being lavishly poured over Aaron’s head, beard, and robes. I’ve got a beard…and to be honest, the idea of someone dumping so much oil on my head that it trickles down through my beard doesn’t appeal to me whatsoever. But that’s not how David’s audience would felt about this word-picture. They would have viewed it as a sign of abundance, blessing, and pleasure. For the High Priest of Israel to be anointed in such an excessive manner suggests that the favor of God rested on the community. David uses this peculiar simile for men dwelling closely with brothers and friends because these relationships also show the favor and blessing of God. When men walk closely with other men, it’s the grace of God – God gives each man support, strength, and accountability for men through these life-giving relationships.
Men, if salmon can swim upstream, so can we! We can find these types of friendships today, but we need to display genuine interest in our friend’s lives—praying for them, focusing on them, and telling the truth to them in love. If we head into friendship with the attitude, What’s this guy got to offer me?…we’ll drain the life out of the poor ol’ chap. But if by the grace of God we carry the priority of loving and serving our friend…we’ll impart life. And those who give life to others are most likely to receive life in return.