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Faith / Relationships

Can We Learn from the Bible About Friendship?

Can We Learn from the Bible About Friendship?

Friendship is one of the many good gifts God has given to the human race. Two or more people come together over a shared interest or activity and a relationship starts to grow—one that can become just as strong as the relationships between brothers and sisters.

Ancient cultures praised friendship as something that taught them virtues like loyalty, faithfulness, and love. Literature is filled with examples of best friends like David and JonathanDamon and Pythias, and Roland and Oliver. In modern times romantic love seems to have taken the spotlight, yet we still celebrate friends like Frodo and Samwise, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Jesus himself had a group of twelve disciples (students) who were close to him, and out of that group, three were particularly close: Peter, James, and John.

Yet friendship isn’t always the wonderful thing it should be. There can be  disagreements, coldness, and betrayal. People get hurt. There are even friendships that center around exclusivity like “cliques.” Friendship can be used as a tool to cause pain, either by exclusion or by active bullying.

All of these are corruptions of friendship. Christians believe that this is not what God intended friendship to be, but that true and Godly friendships can be lifelong and life-giving.

What makes for a good friendship?

One of the most important aspects of a good friendship, curiously enough, is not making the other person bear the whole weight of your hopes and fears. Most people will fold under a weight like that. Friendships are so important, but they were never meant to cover all of a person’s needs. Only God can do that.

But what about more ordinary circumstances—two people who like spending time together without a lot of drama or demands? Most friendships are going to go through rough patches occasionally, but great friendships are something to be valued. All long-term relationships benefit from patience, courtesy, and humility.

Humility says, “Hey, maybe I’m missing something, and I don’t really understand what’s going on with my friend fright now.” Courtesy says, “I’m going to give my friend space to deal with his or her issues, and if there’s other support I can give, I’ll do that, too.” Patience says, “Take the time that you need to deal with this, and I’ll wait for you to get it back together again.” All of this leads to spiritual growth—not just for the person under stress, but for the patient, caring friend who stands by him or her.

Most of the time there is a natural give and take to friendships; the person who needed a hand last year is now in a position to care for you during your time of trouble.

You want to be sure your friendship is a blessing to the both of you. It’s no good if one person is doing all the taking all the time. It’s also unhealthy if the friendship is enabling one person to become less than he or she ought to be—for instance, by building an unhealthy dependence, by allowing that person to practice abusive behavior, or by similar unhealthy patterns. If the friendship can’t be refocused, it’s better for it to end. Even out of such endings, we believe God can work to bring healing and new beginnings for one or both parties.

Friend of God?

Oddly enough, in the Bible we see that God calls human beings his friends. We usually think of friends as equals or near-equals. But who could ever be God’s equal? Yet God refers to the man Abraham as his friend in Isaiah 41:8, and the Bible tells us that he spoke to Moses face to face, “As a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

Jesus does much the same thing when he talks to those who follow him. In fact, he gained a reputation for being “a friend of tax collectors and sinners”—that is, the kind of people culture deemed “less-than.” Jesus’ enemies were right to call him this, because that’s exactly the kind of people he spent time with and cared for—the ones nobody valued.

Jesus explained what God’s friendship with people is like. He said,

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)

Jesus calls the people he loved and was about to die for his friends. Like him, they obeyed God, the Father whom Jesus loved so much; and Jesus told them everything God had said to him. In Jesus’ heart, they were truly friends.

Being a friend of God is what Jesus wanted for them, and it’s what he wants for us, too. Christians believe that anybody who wants to be a friend of God can be, and one way that friendship can start is by getting to know Jesus himself in the Gospels.

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Pieces by THRED are collaborative works produced or managed by our in-house team. Not all of these pieces take a stance, but when they do, you can take it as THRED's position on the issue.

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