We did an episode on friendship a while ago, and it was well received. We thought it would be worth the time to expand a bit.
Friends are far and few between. To have a good and faithful friend at the end of your life is a rare thing. Too often you find that you must part ways for one reason or another.
What do you look for when deciding if someone is a friend? What should you seek to be as a friend? We have several points primarily out of the book of Proverbs related to friendship, and we hope that as we bring each of them before you that they will help you to be a better friend.
Friendship is strange because it is something we tend to talk about or think about, but not necessarily experience. It is common to hear people refer to themselves as being an introvert or extrovert when it comes to human relations. To a degree that is fine, but often people use both of these as an excuse to not be a true friend.
Before you freak out, just consider our words, and then watch people for a bit.
The introvert is one who is more comfortable being by himself for extended periods of time. They enjoy times of solitude to think, read or create and having people around tends to unset those delights.
However, this quarantine is showing that even the strongest introvert realizes that they get lonely. For many, it is simply laziness in the area of friendship. They don’t enjoy the presence of people all of the time, so they don’t pursue relationships that result in true friendship.
Instead they avoid the messiness of having a friend, and being a true friend under the guise of being an introvert. They can fool themselves into thinking that their friendships are few but truly deep when in reality they merely have few people they enjoy being with.
The extrovert, on the other hand, enjoys people and activity and would prefer to be around others than merely by himself. They tend to have many people around them, and they find that it helps them create and think well.
But again, often this is only an excuse for being a poor friend. They don’t actually get deep into the life of the others. Rather, they confuse activity and busyness as being a lover of people. But people think they have many friends when in reality they don’t, they merely have a lot of other people who are like them but it never moves into true friendship.
It is interesting that Proverbs 18:24 says this, “A man of many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”
It is not saying that having many friends is bad in itself. Rather, by understanding the parallelism it is that often the one who has many friends really has no friends. They are only there on a casual level at the surface.
There are those types of friends who are exceedingly precious and rare who are closer even than a blood relative. For most people we tend to move from being an introvert to an extrovert throughout any given day or week.
One of the points we are making with our church as we teach through Philippians is the nature of relationships and community. The letter is not written to a group of individuals, but to a body of people.
Because of their union with Christ through the Holy Spirit, there is a corporate reality that is far more important than the individual. We noted the prefix, "sūn," throughout the book. It denotes togetherness and being associated with someone else.
Two common passages that are not understood well by people are Philippians 1:6 and 2:12.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”.
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
It might be of interest that we just taught on this via video for our church. If you ever wondered what and how we teach as pastors we invite you to go visit our YouTube channel where you can hear us deal with these passages in detail.
In both of these passages Paul uses the plural pronoun for “you” and “your,” but the singular for the “good work” and the “salvation.”
The point, simply made, is that God is not merely at work in us as individuals, but as a corporate body. We are not to just mind our business and worry about our own Christian walk.
We are to be actively involved in the lives and faith of all who are part of our local assembly of believers. And this requires the extrovert to go deeper than merely being in the company of others, and the introvert from avoiding being with people.
It requires you to be friends with others. But not just a friend, but a Christian friend and a godly friend.
A GOOD FRIEND IS FAITHFUL
Fair weather friends are easy to find, but faithful friends in the times of difficulty are much harder to possess.
"The poor is hated even by his neighbor, But those who love the rich are many."
"Many will seek the favor of a generous man, And every man is a friend to him who gives gifts." (Prov. 19:6)
A true friend is there in the times of hardship as well as in the times of rest and plenty. They are not with you, and for you, because of what you give, but because they are committed to you as a person.
"A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity." (17:17)
In the story of Ruth we see this played out in a wonderful and very touching way. Naomi has suffered nothing but adversity. She is now a widow and childless. Both of these create a huge amount of vulnerability. She is to return to Israel and bids her daughter-in-laws to stay behind.
But Ruth, who is a true friend, will not honor that request. She sees a woman who is in need and she desires to be with her.
So she says, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16)
It is through that faithfulness in one relationship that leads to a new marriage and new offspring and the line of David leading to our Savior is accomplished.
A British publication once offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Among the thousands of answers received were the following: The winning definition read: “A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.” (Bits and Pieces, July, 1991)
Being a faithful friend is not always pleasant. And it is not merely always being there for the person. There are times when he needs to deal with a problem in the life of his friend. And a faithful friend will do so.
A GOOD FRIEND REBUKES US WHEN NECESSARY
There are things which may need to be said to a friend that are not easy to say. A true friend is the one who is honest enough to tell us what we need to hear, rather than to flatter us.
A flatterer is no friend. He is one who will ultimately betray you in one way or another for usually a flatterer wants something from you. "A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps." (Prov. 29:5)
Rather, it is better to be that person who seeks the well-being of your friend and this means correcting or rebuking when it is needed.
"Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." (27:5-6)
This is not fun to do, but it is good to do. It is here that when you examine a friendship you realize that it is not a true friendship. The two people are so busy trying to be nice, and have fun, that they don’t say what should be said.
At times this is simply because they know if they were to correct the other person, then they would become fair game too. And they don’t want their weaknesses and folly to be revealed.
The hard reality is that most people want to change as long as it costs them nothing and the change makes things more pleasant and comfortable.
This is something that should be a part of the marriage. The closest of relationships on earth is that of husband and wife and there must be the ability to give a word of rebuke or correction to one another.
This is also a basic passage for all parents. Too many seek to be the friend to their children and it is approached by not wanting to hurt them or rebuke them.
A key part of biblical parenting is functioning as the Lord’s arm in the discipline/rebuke side of a true relationship. You are teaching your children on what needs to be corrected in their life. You are revealing to them what is lacking. You are also helping them learn to take a rebuke properly and in a redemptive manner.
This is also something that often will end budding friendships, and that must be accepted by us. This is hard for us often as we don’t wish for the friendship to end. Out of fear, we hold back when we should not. At that point we become their enemy; kissing them when a wound is what is needed.
This is a two-way process that is often missed by us. A true friend will wound us at times. A true friend will also be willing to be wounded.