“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NASB)
Of all the topics in this Fleet series, friendship is one of the most unique and wonderful of all human connections. Often friendships begin by a mutual interest (going to the same school, having the same hobbies, playing on the same team, growing up in the same neighborhood, etc.). These common interests help to establish a foundation, and from there they can grow into meaningful friendships that add a special joy and unique benefits to life. The benefits of having a true friend are incredibly valuable and the wise person seeks them out and cultivates genuine connections.
One unique aspect of friendship is that people have the power to choose their friends. We don’t have a choice in our family but we do choose the people we hang out with. This is important because a wise person chooses his friends carefully knowing that friendships tend to define you; as the cliché goes, “you are who you hang out with.” It is good to know that the two most important influences in people’s lives are their parents and their peers. Various seasons and situations in life determine which of these two influences will have the most weight; nevertheless, they tend to define us. Fortunately, we have a choice in friendships and a wise person chooses carefully.
Friendships are also not based upon emotion or physical attraction. When a guy starts a friendship with a girl, nine times out of ten it is because he is interested in her romantically, or vice versa. While romantic relationships are highly emotional and require a lot of effort, time, and cultivation, friendships are different. They are not forced or even started from a biologically human desire for intimate connection from someone of the opposite sex. As C.S. Lewis described it, “there is nothing throaty about it; nothing that quickens the pulse or turns you red and pale.” When your friend walks into the room, it is doubtful your heart rate increases or your palms get sweaty. Friendships are unique because there isn’t the added drama of emotional stress or romantic pressure. They allow us to simply enjoy another person’s company.
Friendships are not based upon what can be gained but instead on what can be given.
A true friend is not someone who is looking to suck the life out of you and then leave the empty carcass. A true friend adds to your life and even makes sacrifices for you. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Friends go the extra mile with you. They are secret keepers and they cover up your mistakes. Friends will tell you when you have a booger in your nose or when you have something in your teeth. A friend will tell you the truth even when it hurts because they have nothing to lose (see Proverbs 27:6). A friend answers when you call or quickly calls you back. True friendships are based upon what you can give, not gain.
Lastly, friendships are unique because few people genuinely experience it in their lives. Sure, we all know people and people know us. But to have a friend that is closer to you than a sibling (see Proverbs 18:24)—that is a rare thing. Friendships like these have a foundation thicker than blood. This is often experienced in the body of Christ. The faith that connects you to a brother or sister in Christ should be far greater than any earthly human connection. A friend in the faith is an eternal friend. What makes this difficult is that few want to exercise the honesty and transparency this type of friendship requires. Only those people who know what unconditional love is can experience true friendship.
With that in mind, here is a sobering thought: no one is a perfect friend and all earthly friendships will fall short of our human need for connection and community—only Jesus is a perfect friend. Jesus is a friend of sinners. He is the perfect model of what it means to be a friend. He laid down His life for us. He accepted us when we didn’t deserve it. He associates Himself with us at the risk of His own reputation. He not only covers up our mistakes but also takes the consequences of them on Himself and receives our guilt and shame. Jesus is the greatest friend anyone could ever have. Jesus said in John 15, “I have called you friends,” which is wonderfully unique.
Search the Scriptures:
- Proverbs 16:28; 17:9, 17; 18:24; 27:5–10
- John 15; 13:15
- James 4:4
Questions to Consider:
- How would you define a friend?
- Why do you think it is important to choose godly friends?
- How does being a friend of Jesus shape your current friendships?
- How can you be friends with non-Christians but not love the world? What purposes do you have in these types of friendships and what boundaries should you have?