True friendship is one of the most positive and rewarding aspects of human personality. Yet, sad to say, what we too often experience is only superficial, put-on friendliness that lasts about as long as a vapor on a windy day. How often "friendship" dissipates when the need for such support is most urgent! God wants us to be friendly. "A man who has friends must himself be friendly," says Proverbs 18:24. But how does God define being "friendly"? The fact is that we need to develop friendships that are true and lasting, that are able to weather all the storms and tests of life, that go beyond a friendly smile and a passing handshake.
True friendship has depth and maturity. It has been cultivated and nurtured through intimate sharing of hopes, dreams, experiences and even tragedies. Real friendships are precious. God's Word gives numerous examples of model friendships. The patriarch Abraham, for instance, was called "the friend of God" (James 2:23, Isaiah 41:8). This friendship was not of the fair-weather variety. It stood the test. Abraham valued his friendship with God beyond his personal status, the community where he lived or even the life of his son. Ruth and Naomi had a special kind of friendship. All the comforts of home beckoned Ruth to remain among her own people in familiar Moab. But Ruth perceived that other values in life were more important, pledging, "Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God" (Ruth 1:16). That's commitment - that's friendship. The friendship of David and Jonathan is also instructive; here, loyalty, mutual respect and godly love transcended selfish desires, politics and prestige. Jonathan, the heir apparent to Israel's throne, had the spiritual courage and faith to serve his friend, knowing David was anointed of God, rather than to selfishly cling to his position. True friendship is not just based on mutual interests, likes or dislikes, monetary gain or sublimated self-interest. A true friend will always help, even if it hurts: "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Proverbs 27:5-6). Of course, friends don't always see eye to eye or agree on every issue. Sometimes, friends may even be wrong. Yet friends stick together and pull together: "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17).
Friendship with God
As Christians, our friendship with God must be primary. How can we qualify for this highest relationship? God shows that wholehearted obedience to Him and reverence for His laws is the key to friendship with Him. Jesus taught, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 15:14). Jesus sets us a perfect example of love, friendship and loyalty. He doesn't forsake us as He sees us struggling to overcome the hurdles of life. We, too, must not abandon friends during times of trial. "A friend is always a friend, he is a born brother for adversity" (Proverbs 17:17, Moffatt). But our friendship with God is not to be exclusive. In John 15:12 Jesus commands that we expand our horizons and "love one another as I have loved you." And our commission as Christians is to eventually help all humanity come to know God and share with Him the type of friendship we now have! Everyone could use at least one more true friend. Are we open to the challenge of having this kind of friend - or, better yet, being a true friend ourselves to someone else?