The second mark of spiritual friendship is a shared thermostat. I hope never to repeat the frustration of living in an apartment with a bunch of unmarried men. Among the difficulties is the challenge of setting the thermostat. Whereas one roommate would attempt to replicate the weather conditions of the North Pole, another would mistake our apartment for a sweat lodge. The result was often a dangerous hive of passive-aggressiveness.
Spiritual friendship requires shared consent regarding the desired temperature of discipleship. Different Christians have different interpretations of what it means to be a devout follower of Jesus. Some are happy to exist in a tepid, lukewarm state. Others feel the need to kick-start the burner whenever the boil drops to a simmer. Spiritual friendship is distinct from other Christian relationships because spiritual appetites must be in sync. Such friends not only share a sense of where they are going, but there is a pace, an earnestness, that all hope to maintain.
Why is a shared thermostat so important? Any competitive athlete can give the answer. Drive is contagious. We not only pick up the spiritual habits of our inner circle of friends, we feed off their energy. Next to captivation, there is no source of motivation among Christians more powerful than spiritual friendship. This insight is not new. In Ecclesiastes we read, ‘If two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?’ (4:11).
Questions for Small Groups/Self-Reflection
What should men do who lack a supportive group of men who desire to run hard after Christ?
What is the difference between a typical church small group and a spiritual band of brothers? What are the strengths/weaknesses of a typical small group? What are the potential dangers of a narrow band of brothers?
What does it mean for a group of Christian men to ‘set a pace’? In other words, what can be done to keep a rhythm of practices, meetings, assignments, or disciplines that push men beyond what they might do alone?