The Importance of Friendship
To have and/or to be a friend is a choice. Jesus chose twelve disciples out of the many who were following him around ancient Palestine and asked that they become his close associates. It is those chosen men (minus Judas who has left the group to betray Jesus) that Jesus addresses these words: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:12-15).
The relationships between each of the disciples and Jesus began with acquaintance, grew through their curiosity, developed into discipleship, were nurtured into friendship, and, after time and with the help of the Holy Spirit, these men were so committed to Jesus they were willing to die for him. Jesus’ earthly friendships give us evidence of the importance of friendship in our lives. If Jesus needed friends, so do we!
Needs fulfilled by friendship
A different kind of love:
“What a man desires is unfailing love” (Proverbs 19:22a). There are many levels of friendship in our world. True, biblical friendship is about shared experiences, about enduring love and support, about loyalty, and long-term commitment. That is the kind of friendship that we long for. And that kind of friendship is rare in our world.
Friendships add significance and meaning to our lives. For those of us who are married, our primary friendship, ideally, is with our spouse. But we need other friends as well, those who understand us, love us, and hold us accountable to our personal and spiritual development – no matter what.
Unselfishness and wisdom:
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment” (Proverbs 18:1, NKJV). This verse says that to choose not to have friends is to choose self-centeredness. Being a friend requires time and effort and sometimes sacrifice. Living in relationship requires compromise, sometimes giving up our own will for another’s.
The story of David and Jonathan in the Bible is an example of friendship that cost something. Jonathan loved David to the point that he was willing to give up the throne that rightly would have belonged to him if David hadn’t come along and if God hadn’t made it clear that David was his choice to be the next king of Israel. True friendship means defending one another, keeping each other’s secrets, and, at times, sacrificing our own ambitions for another’s good.
When we think of this, we wonder if having a friend is worth it. That is what the man in Proverbs 18:1 is thinking by choosing to isolate himself. But look at the rest of the verse, “He defies all sound judgment.” To think only of ourselves and our own comfort is not biblical, and it certainly isn’t wise.
Friendship is mutually beneficial to both (or all) of the friends involved. It takes us out of our comfort zone and invites us to grow and develop personally and spiritually. When we need a friend (and we will), the ones with whom we have developed deep relationships will be there to help us just as we also make ourselves and our resources available to them.
Cautions about friendships
“A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26). The choices we make about friendships (where we spend our time, who we allow to advise us, and who depends on us) are spiritual choices. We must choose carefully as this proverb cautions: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
James also recognized this when he said “You adulterous people; don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes a enemy of God.” (James 4:4). The friends we choose to be particularly close to should be those who share our spiritual values. That doesn’t mean that we are not friendly with those who do not share our faith, as our willingness to befriend them may be the door which will draw them to Christ. But our closest intimacies can be only with those who relate to God as we do. Without that common bond, we don’t have a foundation for a spiritual friendship that the wisdom writers of Proverbs describe and encourage.