The Standard June 3, 2021
At a recent end-of-the-school-year youth gathering, the devotion on friendship struck me as being not only meaningful for students, but also for those of us well past our teens. The longer we have lived, hopefully the longer we have had to grow in our appreciation for those deep friendships which are treasured because of their relative rarity. The Old Testament’s wisdom literature speaks to the importance of having and being the right kind of friend.
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12:26) “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
“Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:31-33) “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a sister or brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” (Proverbs 19:20) “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.” (Proverbs 22:24-25)
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:5-6) “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice. Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.” (Proverbs 27:9-10) “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
While we undoubtedly have numerous acquaintances and many good friends, we each need a few friendships where we cultivate mutual support and accountability. Pastor and author J. R. Miller once wrote, “To become another’s friend in the true sense is to take the other into such close, living fellowship that their life and ours are knit together as one. It is far more than a pleasant companionship in bright, sunny hours. A genuine friendship is entirely unselfish. It seeks no benefit or good of its own. It does not love – for what it may receive—but for what it may give. Its aim is ‘not to be served, but to serve.’ (Mark 10:45)”
While Jesus made time to speak with and help all kinds of people and was no stranger to associating with those regarded as the worst of sinners, he devoted much of his time to developing relationships with the twelve disciples, and even more to Peter, James and John who seemed to be his closest friends or inner circle. Jesus set a high bar for friendship and one to which we should aspire. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:12-14)