A soul friend cares about your soul as much as you.
Soul friends depend on one another.
But though this discipline seem hard to the hard-hearted, namely that a man should always hang on the lips of another, yet by those who are fixed in their fear of God it will be found pleasant and safe, if it is kept wholly and not in part, since nothing is pleasanter than safety of conscience and nothing safer than exoneration of the soul, which none can provide for himself by his own efforts, since it properly belongs to the judgment of others.
- Columbanus, Monks' Rule (Irish, 7th century)
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy...
The idea of "soul friends" occurs with some consistency throughout the period of the Celtic revival (ca 430-800 AD). Soul friends were partners in accountabilty, encouragement, prayer, and edification, and they depended on one another to help in the work of sanctification.
In order to have a soul friend you must be willing to allow another into the deeper sectors of your soul, to share your aspirations, hopes, dreams, and visions, as well as your struggles, fears, and shortcomings. Columbanus was right when he wrote that we can't count on ourselves alone to watch over our souls. We need someone more objective than that, someone who loves us enough to tell the truth, even when it hurts, and to lead us in celebration before the Lord for every indication of growth and progress.
Husbands and wives must work to be the best of soul friends, but each should also seek out soul friends of the same sex to help in the work of sanctification. In the structure of the church, as the Lord Jesus designed it, elders - shepherds - are appointed to watch over the souls of the people of God. Every church member should have a shepherd to nurture, encourage, guide, correct, and disciple him or her. The fact that this exists hardly anywhere in the Church today is just one more measure of our low regard for the plain teaching of Scripture.
If we begin with ourselves, by seeking out accountability partners and exercising loving oversight of one another's souls, soon enough the benefits of such relationships might find their way into the lives of our church leaders. Who knows? We may even have an outbreak of shepherding that will trip the Lord's tumblers and unlock revival throughout the land.
If we're serious about growing in the Lord, we'll find a soul friend or two to help us make continuous progress. This matters a lot. Brigid, the 6th century Irish saint, declared that a man without a soul friend is like a man without a head.
Haven't you been headless long enough?
Today at The Fellowship of Ailbe
The problem with art today is the same as the problem with ethics, as I explain in today's ReVision column.
Why not send today's Crosfigell to a friend and challenge him or her to become a soul friend with you? Write me and I'll send you some additional guidance in what such a relationship entails.