The sitcom Friends was, and in syndication is still, immensely popular. The show chronicled six young adults navigating their way down the river of life in New York City; each depending on the other to make it through the day. Their motto:
I’ll be there for you,
When the rain starts to pour.
I’ll be there for you,
Like I’ve been there before.
I’ll be there for you,
‘Cause you’re there for me too!
That is the epitome of friendship, is it not? Everyone wants a friend, or friends, like that, and the sextuplet of “thirtysomethings” from the show was the poster child of Generation X friendship. Of course, their camaraderie rarely stacked up to the Biblical description of friendship, yet the concept of the show struck a nerve in American society: we all need and want close friendships.
Friends are important! You need and want people who will “be there for you when the rain starts to pour” and during all other times as well. Friends are important at every stage of human life and development. Even married adults need Godly friends other than their spouse. Ladies, your husband cannot meet every relational need that you have. He simply cannot do it. You need some good, Godly female friends. Men, there is no way that your wife can meet every relational need that you have. You need some good, Godly male friends.
Tragically, the current sexual confusion in our culture has led to the erosion of true male companionship so that if men are seen caring for one another in any substantive way the “Are they gay?” question immediately rises. God forbid that this cultural confusion should prevent the men of God from developing and strengthening good, Godly friendships with one another.
Let us define the friendship that I am encouraging you to develop before we continue. Friendship is a unique relationship which stretches and satisfies both people. This relationship is typically between people of the same gender (except in the case of marriage). With that as a frame of reference let us consider from the Proverbs Five Friendship Factors.
Choose Your Friends
At first glance Proverbs 12:26 seems arrogant. Some digging into this verse is required. The Hebrew verb “tuwr” is used 23 times in the OT, and only in Proverbs 12:26 is it translated “is more excellent”. It means “to search and spy out, to guide, or to carefully choose”. (In Numbers 13:2; 16; 17; 21; 25; 32 when the twelve spies searched out Canaan this Hebrew word is always translated as “search, searched, searching, or spy.”) And the word translated “neighbor” is also translated “friend”, (as we shall see later in the lesson – Proverbs 17:17; 27:17). Therefore, “the righteous is more excellent than his neighbor” is not an elitist statement but is a command for the righteous to carefully choose his friends.
Why should the righteous carefully choose his friends? Because wicked “friends” will lead the righteous astray. The apostle Paul concurred with Solomon. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” Bad company corrupts good character. You become like the people with whom you hang around, so choose your friends wisely. Here are three key words to help you wisely choose friends: eternity, affinity, and loyalty. Choose friends who are going where you are going! Choose friends who are doing what you’re doing! Choose friends who are fighting what you’re fighting!
Your best friends; your closest friends should be born-again, Bible believing, fully-devoted, church-committed, followers of Jesus Christ! The prophet Amos asked the rhetorical question “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) Of course two cannot walk together if they do not agree. You cannot be “together” and going in different directions. Your first priority in choosing a friend should be someone who is a committed follower of Jesus Christ. Choose friends who are not only headed for the same eternal destination as you, but friends who live with eternity in view!
Yes, it is good and right to have relationships with non-believers, but you should not allow people who do not know Jesus Christ to be the sole means of meeting your friendship needs. If you need to ask why then read 1 Corinthians 15:33 and Amos 3:3 again. This is one reason why children, teens, and adults should be active in their local church; so that they may form and further friendships with fellow believers.
Friendship factor number two is…
Love Your Friends
A friend steps forward when the world steps away. Erma Bombeck said that a friend who loves at all times “doesn’t go on a diet when you’re fat!” D.L. Moody said, “A true friend is like ivy, the greater the ruin, the closer he clings.”
Why is love the most excellent way of relating to people? (1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:13) Because God is love (1 John 4:8), and the simplest most profound description of Christian character is love! Proverbs 17:17 is the litmus test of friendship. You know your friends not by how they operate when the sun is shining, the breeze is lightly blowing, and life is good. You know your friends by how they relate to you when the sky is dark, the wind is howling, and life is bad. Your acquaintances will disappear during adversity. Your friends will not.
Choose your friends wisely. Love your friends, especially in adversity, and friendship factor number three…
Enjoy Your Friends
This enjoyment includes, but goes beyond…
- Enjoying the game together
- Enjoying the hunt together
- Enjoying the shoe store sale together
Real friends go below the surface and engage in rich, “hearty counsel”; they candidly discuss what really matters. Real friends have the freedom and confidence to open their hearts to one another with no reservations. Real friends do not fear a hasty conclusion, a harsh, unfair judgment, rejection, or that that their confidence will be violated.
Proverbs 27:10 – “Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.”
Hold fast to tried and true friends. In some cases, these true friends are even closer and more helpful than family.
This is what it means to enjoy your friends!
Protect Your Friends
This proverb is not a warning for the perverse man to cease sowing strife, although that would be wise and God honoring, but this is a warning for people who want to protect their friendships. Beware! There is a certain kind of person who is perverse in the sense that he delights in separating friends. This dishonest, perverse person sows seeds of strife that bloom into the separation of true friends. Here are some ways in which the perverse person sows these seeds.
- Bad Reports – Why is the phrase “it’s none of my business” almost always followed by the word “but”?
- Motive Assessments – no one knows the motivation of another unless it has been shared. Who can know “why” a person has or has not done a thing? You are not God.
Here is how you protect your friends from bad reports, half-truths, exaggerations, and motive assessments.
- Stop the Repetition – Do bad reports stop with you or do they continue on down the grapevine? If you are a conduit for bad reports you are a lousy friend! Gossip, rumors, slander, even truths that have no business being shared, all of that should stop with you. Stop the repetition, and foster a reputation of intolerance towards that type of conversation.
- Cover the Transgression – here is a helpful list from Proverbs: 10:12; 11:13; 12:23; 17:9. Protecting your friend by covering the transgression does not mean condoning sin. It simply means not spreading the strife.
This leads to the fifth factor of friendship.
Correct Your Friends
“The kisses of an enemy” in the modern vernacular is called “kissing up.” That is what an enemy does. A friend’s wounds are faithful, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. The true friend loves enough to say the hard, truthful word even though that word may cause pain. Real friends do not hesitate to provide a rebuke, when necessary, from the Word of Truth (Psalm 141:5; Galatians 4:16; 6:1-2). These wounds work both ways, because no friend enjoys confronting his friend with a rebuke.
Proverbs 27:17 – “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
When iron rubs against iron sparks are going to fly, and a real friend loves enough to tell you the hard thing.
If you want to be and enjoy deep, lasting, authentic friendships you will choose your friends wisely, love your friends especially in times of adversity, enjoy your friends completely, protect your friends loyally, and correct your friends lovingly and truthfully.
Of course, the ultimate friend is Jesus Christ (Proverbs 18:24).
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do you know this man Jesus as your friend? I did not ask if you know of Him or about Him. Do you know Him as your Friend, your Savior, and your Lord?