My dictionary defines the word “friend” in the following ways: “One attached to another by affection or esteem; acquaintance; one that is not hostile; one that favors or promotes something (as charity).” Jesus said this about friendship: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 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 heard from My Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:13-15 NKJV). The dictionary gives us the denotation (definition) of the word “friend” while Jesus gives us its connotation (application). Jesus has proven Himself to be the ultimate friend to us who were His enemies. How? He died that we may live (Rom. 5:8). If we were to brainstorm a list of the many characteristics of a true friend, we could come up with many options, but we would all agree on these essential qualities: love, loyalty, honesty, commitment, and availability.
In the Old Testament, Jonathan and David are examples of true friends (1 Sam. 18:1-4; 2 Sam. 1:25- 26). In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus is theexample of the truest friend. Many of us have good friends, and God has given them to us. But if we want real friendship, and if we want true friendship, Christ is the ultimate friend. He is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).
Old Testament Friendships
God has given friendship to us as a gift. In His infinite wisdom, He knew that we would need friends to confide in. Yes, we have Him, but He has also given us friends that He can use to comfort us. The Bible gives us many examples of wonderful friendships.
In Exodus 33:11, we read that “the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Friends are intimate; they often spend time with us, talking face to face. Moses had the privilege of being called the Lord’s friend. Is our relationship with God such that He can call us His friend?
When King David was overthrown by Absalom, Hushai came to support him: “Now it happened when David had come to the top of the mountain, where he worshiped God – there was Hushai the Archite coming to meet him with his robe torn and dust on his head” (2 Sam. 15:32). True friends comfort and support each other. They mourn when we mourn. David convinced him that he was more useful in Jerusalem, “So Hushai, David’s friend, went into the city. And Absalom came into Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 15:37).
In 1 Kings 4:5 we read of “Zabud the son of Nathan, a priest and the king’s friend.” Friendship has no rank. Solomon the powerful king had Zabud the spiritual priest as his friend. Even powerful people need friends. We need spiritually mature friends.
Proverbs 17:17 tells us that “a friend loves at all times.” We see many qualities of true friendship in the relationship between Jonathan and David. In 1 Samuel 18:1-4, their souls were “knit” together; this speaks of closeness. There was true love; Jonathan “loved him as his own soul.” There was sacrifice; Jonathan “took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David.” Further, we read how Jonathan had the courage to defend David against the unrighteous claims of Saul, his father and king (1 Sam. 19:1- 6). Friendship does what is right. Would that there were more friendships like that of David and Jonathan.
Proverbs 27:6 says this: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” A friend will tell us the truth for our own good, even if it hurts us and him. True friends will wound us in order to heal us. Do we have any friends like this? We need them.
Warning Against Ungodly Friends
The Lord does not want us to be influenced by ungodly friends. If we have friends who do not know Christ as their Savior, we are to influence them for Him. In 2 Samuel 13:1-22 we read about the rape of Tamar. Scripture is clear that Amnon, Tamar’s half brother, was influenced by his friend Jonadab (13:3-5). Jonadab was very crafty, and he came up with the scheme that satisfied Amnon’s desire but resulted in Tamar’s shame. Amnon knew better but listened to his friend and raped her anyway. We should never heed the ungodly counsel of unbelievers. Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.”
God also gives us a warning in the book of James not to become friendly with the world: “Whosoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4). God does not want us to be friendly with this world because it is a corrupt system. We are not to follow worldly principles even though our worldly friends tempt us to do so. The world’s system is driven by Satan.
New Testament Friendships
There are many examples of friendships in the New Testament, but the most memorable friendships were those involving the Lord Jesus Christ and those He befriended. For instance, He was a friend to Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Jn. 12:1-3; Lk. 10:38-42). He spent time in their home and they benefited greatly from His friendship. He taught them and loved them. He comforted them in difficult times.
He befriended publicans and sinners in order to bring them to God (Mt. 11:19). He declared His friendship to His disciples: “You are My friends if you do whatever 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 things that I heard from My Father, I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:14- 15). As disciples today we too are called to keep His commandments. It should be our joy to keep them because of all that He has done for us!
Friends share secrets, and the Lord has shared with us the secrets of the Father’s house. In His Word He also reveals to us the secrets of future events. He even tells us of the specific life he wants each of us to live for Him.
Joseph M. Scriven was right when he wrote the hymn, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” – one of the greatest hymns of all time. Jesus was a compassionate friend to multitudes during His earthly ministry (Mt. 9:35). He taught them, fed them, healed them, comforted them and raised many from the dead.
Jesus is the Savior-Friend who died that we might live. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” In the armed forces this is called the ultimate sacrifice. While soldiers are placed in such circumstances beyond their control, the Lord Jesus willingly gave His life not just for His friends, but also for His enemies. What a friend we have in Jesus! “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). Jesus is that friend!
By Al Stuart
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org
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