Men are made for community. They are made to walk their path in this world alongside their family and with a band of brothers. God’s first “not good” in the created order was because of man’s solitude: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). This “not good” is all the more striking because it was voiced before sin entered the world. The need reflected nothing broken in Adam, nothing wrong or sinful, but rather, it reflected God’s design.
On the sixth day of creation, God gave his image bearers a job description. “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it’” (Gen 1:28). The command involved building families, but also included other tasks that promote human flourishing as well (places of worship, cities, education, government, and recreation). Men were called by their Creator to lead in the responsibility of subduing the world for the glory of God for the good of his image bearers. This command is sometimes called the dominion or cultural mandate.
Fulfilling the cultural mandate involves conquering, working, and serving in the world for the sake of one’s family and the good of the community. For this work to get done, it is imperative for men to have relationships and work together. The writer of Proverbs asserts, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17). Every man needs close interaction with other men to be sharpened. Every man needs the kind of friends who will push, challenge, and confront him when necessary. The notion of the man who thrives as a loner is a myth: “One who isolates himself pursues selfish desires; he rebels against all sound judgment” (Prov 18:1).
Sadly, our hyper-individualistic culture does not cultivate environments where deep manly friendships are quickly established. Men today are often drowning is superficial relationships, but do not possesses any genuinely accountable gut-level friendships. If no male friend has bluntly confronted you about something in your life in the last year, you have contacts—not friends. If the face of a male friend whom you would not want to face after messing up does not come to mind, then you are doing life wrong.
Christian men must see these kinds of deep gospel friendships as essential and teach their sons to do the same. Dads, your sons should know that you have a band of gospel brothers who encourage you and hold you accountable. You should teach them what to look for in close friends and how to be a faithful friend as well. The Bible is most often written in the plural, but most of us read it in the singular. Friendship takes work, but “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov 17:17).