Developing True Friendships
The other day, someone shared with me how a person whom she works with is constantly bringing up issues about her and keeps reminding her how she needs to change. This person finds it hard to tell her work colleague to back off because she is a friend and she does not want to hurt her.
This got me thinking. We all have friends. There are different levels of friendships. Some are acquaintances that we have come to know and they are people we will say “hi” to but we won’t really hang out with. Some of these acquaintances we want to avoid because they can sometimes be a pain and drain us. Then there are friends who are great companions. We enjoy socialising with them and hanging out with them and they prevent us from feeling lonely. But acquaintances and companions come and go. Or, using the words from social media, they are people whom we “friend” when they enter our lives and “unfriend” when they leave or do something and we don’t want to be connected to them anymore.
Then, there is a third level of friendship where there is a deep bond within the relationship. Some people call these friends “besties” or “soul-mates”. The Bible calls them “true friends”. Proverbs 18: 24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Some people may be your friend when it benefits them, but will betray you or cause you ruin because you relied on them too much and then they let you down. A true friend who sticks closer than a brother or a sister is one whom you can trust with your own life. They won’t stab you in the back. Instead they watch your back.
What else does the Bible say about a true friend?
- A true friend loves unconditionally and will stand with you through adversity
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.“ In other words, a true friend loves us despite our weaknesses and imperfections They do not judge us but accept us unconditionally. Using Paul’s definition of unconditional love in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, we could say that a true friend is patient and kind to us; they are not jealous, boastful, proud or rude; neither are they demanding, irritable or maintaining a list of things we do wrong. They don’t enjoy seeing you treated unjustly but are pleased when truth wins out. They never give up on you but have faith and hope in you and will endure with you through all circumstances.
- A true friend shows sacrificial love (John 15: 13)
Jesus says in John 15: 13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus showed us what it means to be a true friend. His love for the various people he met was unconditional, never selfish. He showed it in the way he accepted and loved people, ministering to people in need, and even humbly washing the feet of His disciples. The final demonstration of His unconditional love was when He gave his life so that we can be reconciled to God. A true friend is one who values you more than their own life and is willing to humbly serve you following Jesus’ example (see also Philippians 2: 3-8)
- A true friend has your best interest at heart (Proverbs 27: 6)
Proverbs 27: 6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted”. True friends will build each other up emotionally and spiritually. They are there when we need encouragement and love, but at times they will say the difficult things we need to hear. Yet, because of the trust and acceptance, a true friend can deliver the hard message with truth and grace. This is what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
As I reflect on what a true friend is, I am challenged to be a true friend to those who I meet and follow the example Christ set of being a true friend. What if we all did that at church, being a true friend to each other? Wouldn’t our church community be such a warm, loving and caring fellowship? Maybe then we would demonstrate true biblical fellowship.