The Importance of Right Friendships
Some people prefer to be alone. But most want to be around other people. Relationships and associations are important to them. They desire to have and maintain friendships.
Friendship is part of God's way of life. His Word has much to say about friendship. In fact, God Himself strongly emphasizes His desire for relationships and friendships. Jesus Christ, who is one in mind and Spirit with the Father, will marry the Church. This implies an extremely close relationship as well as a friendship. A major underpinning in God's plan is healthy, strong, close relationships.
The Scriptures refer to Abraham and Moses as friends of God (Exodus 33:11; James 2:23). Jesus had close friends. Though the disciples were His closest friends, He had friendly relationships with others, including tax collectors. For this He was soundly condemned by others (Matthew 11:19). One of the tax collectors, Matthew, even became a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13).
These examples illustrate that it is not wrong to have friends who are not Christian. John, another disciple and a close friend of Jesus, described the danger we must keep in mind: "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. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).
We must maintain a proper balance. We are to help people in the world—in society—without becoming part of the way of life of the world.
Among the disciples the Savior apparently felt especially close to John. He even commissioned this disciple to care for His mother, Mary, after His death. Although Jesus was a friend to many, He appears to have felt a special affinity for John.
John's epistles dwell on love as a major theme. Since God is love and the Son of God is like His Father (Hebrews 1:3), this may be why Jesus felt a special affinity for John. Following Christ's example, we can see it is not wrong for us to have close friends as long as they do not prevent us from helping others and having a positive relationship with them.
People can be so much more effective, so much more balanced and so much wiser as a result of developing and maintaining healthy friendships. The Word of God supports this approach. The book of Proverbs is rife with wise sayings on aspects of friendship. Proverbs focuses on the importance of developing friendships based on the right reasons. For example, Proverbs 19:4-6 tells us: "Wealth makes many friends, but the poor is separated from his friend . . . Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts."
Solomon noted that many people make friends for ulterior motives, such as what a friend can do for us. But a true friend is one who will sacrifice for his brother, not one who will sacrifice his brother for gain. A true friend will not be friendly only when things are going well but will love at all times, including periods of adversity (Proverbs 17:17).
A true friend is deeply committed to a relationship. Notice Jesus Christ describing this commitment: "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus not only said this, He lived it. It's quite a challenge for us to follow this wonderful example.
Some believe that to be a friend to someone one should never stand up to or disagree with him. But there are times when a true friend needs to tell his brother where he is wrong. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Proverbs 27:6).
Friends should assist and strengthen each other by helping each other grow and improve (Proverbs 27:17). People simply do much better by working together. Two really are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
God's way is not one of total independence from others. It is a way of interdependence—of close relationships and of working together as a well-trained team to accomplish the goals He sets before us. All of us need to actively seek, develop and maintain friendships from a godly perspective and motive. We will be better people as a result.
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