Friendships are an important part of our lives. Ever since we were young, we have formed these relationships with other individuals and they have brought us times of sadness and happiness, exhilaration and frustration. Some of these friendships have been more shallow and superficial while others have been much more strong and long-lasting. As we grow and mature, we discover that these strong, fulfilling friendships require much effort and work to maintain. That’s probably why most people have so few of them. I’ve heard many individuals say, on a number of occasions, that they can count the number of good friends they have on one hand.
So, what does it mean to be a friend? A “friend,” according to the dictionary, is “…1 a person whom one knows well and is fond of 2 an ally, supporter, or sympathizer.” (1) This, in turn, inspires some questions. Since these relationships are such an important part of our lives, who do we choose to be our friends? Who are we attracted to and want to know more about? Who do we select to fulfill that necessary role of the one who offers us support, encouragement, and when things go wrong, the shoulder to cry on?
Sadly, we many times turn to people of the world to be our “true” friends. We become attracted to and nurture these relationships and they fulfill our needs in these areas. Is this the right decision? Should, we, as Christians, have close, intimate relationships with those who are outside the kingdom of Christ? What do we really have in common with them? What are our shared interests? We are warned, on several occasions in scriptures, to not place our affections on things of this world. In James 4:4, it states: “…Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (NKJV) The apostle John offers the following admonition in I John 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Having close friendships with “worldly” individuals should be difficult for Christians for we are, as it states in II Corinthians 6:14, “…unequally yoked together.” We have objectives and interests that are diametrically opposed to those of the world.
Instead, we should have a close relationship, a “friendship” with God, our Creator. What a compliment was given to Abraham in James 2:23 that he “…was called the friend of God.” We need to follow the example of Abraham. He trusted and obeyed God. He had a strong friendship with His Creator and God blessed him and his descendants. Like Abraham, we need to put God first in our list of priorities and strive to obey Him and do His will. Obedience is the key! We see in John 15:14 – 15, Jesus tells His disciples: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” With that sort of attitude, we will be able to have a close relationship with our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
Let us also nurture the relationships that we have our brethren, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are part of the same spiritual family! We have so many things in common with each other. We have the same principles and goals for our lives. We have the same Lord and Savior. Thus, we should, naturally, want to have close friendships with our fellow Christians. The apostle Peter exhorts us in I Peter 2:17: “Love the brotherhood.” He later states in I Peter 4:8:“And above all things have fervent love for one another…” We need to truly appreciate the common bond that we share as Christians and consider our spiritual brothers and sisters worthy and qualified to be called our “friends.”
(1): Michael Agnes, ed., Webster’s New Dictionary (Cleveland, Ohio: Wiley Publishing Inc., 2003), 261.