The heart of Christian reality is a society—a Trinity—of persons living with and for one another. God created us to live in bonds of society and friendship, not as lone rangers. The Christian faith presents friendship and hospitality not as luxuries but necessities. God does not save us in isolation but in community with other people. There is no possibility of living to the glory of God apart from godly companions.
In this book, Steve Wilkins seeks to call us back to the joyous obligations of friendship and hospitality.
At just 142 pages, this book may not take long to get through – but it can hardly be dubbed a “light read”.
Face to Face: Meditations on Friendship and Hospitality by Steve Wilkins is a convicting, no-nonsense look at the significance of human interaction to Christian living.
Part one, “Friendship”, examines the fallacy of the “lone ranger Christian” and necessity of biblical friendships for growth in wisdom and in holiness. Wilkins does not expect the reader to be best friends with every Christian they encounter, but does show the need to practice friendliness to all. He describes various types of friendships that should be sought out and differentiates the characteristics of a true friendship versus that of the dangerous fair-weather sycophantic variety.
He realistically acknowledges the difficulty in having intimate friendships, such as the time they demand to maintain and the pains of resolving conflicts along the way – but also shows how sanctifying such a relationship can be.
“Hospitality”, the second part of the book, details the practice of biblical friendliness not only to believers but to strangers as well. Wilkins examines the concepts of hospitality in the lives of individuals and in the congregation.
To quote the author,
“In everything a faithful church does, it must set its face against all forms of self-worship, warning of its destructiveness and eventual condemnation. The faithful church may proclaim this through the direct preaching of the gospel or by simply living the gracious and holy life which God has called us to live – a life of peace, true and principled love, real loyalty and communion together. When God’s people care for one another, it is a powerful testimony against the manifest selfishness and idolatry of the world and it is necessary in order to give credibility to the preached word.”
Face-to-Face is sobering because it cuts to the heart of the reader and charges them to examine their own behavior in how they relate to others. Sometimes, this can be uncomfortable because of how accurately the author describes even the most subtle of sinful behavior detrimental to friendships and the ability to practice hospitality. Yet, Wilkins balances this conviction with biblical encouragement and guidance for building and repairing relationships, and gives direction for making changes in ones’ lifestyle to become more sensitive and accommodating to the needs of others.