As you read, I hope you think about a friend or two with whom you will share this. Not for more readers, but because you have some great friends in your life. Real, close friends whom you consider more like family.
Think about your friends for a moment…all the people outside your family that tend to be included in the different outings and events in your life. Are they all “friends”, or are some just people you hang out with? Chances are, they aren’t all friends. More likely, they serve as friends of the moment. They fill these pieces of time when you enjoy some commonality in life and simply hang out together. But, if friendships truly are an important part of our lives as followers of Christ, we should understand what it means to be a real friend and make time to evaluate our friendships.
There are examples of friends, good and bad, throughout the Bible, and God has plenty to say about friendships. In John 15:15, Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.” We read about Jesus weeping in John 11:35, and it was his compassion towards his friends during their time of grief that triggered his tears. He hurt because his friends hurt. Seems that friends and friendships were important to Jesus as he walked the earth.
So, what is the criteria for evaluating friendships? Here are some keys we should strive to have in our friendships. Think of someone you consider to be a “close” friend, and ask these questions.
- What do you generally talk about when together? Do either of you dominate the time?
- Is there mutual care and concern for the other’s life and happenings?
- When one has a need, does the other do everything possible to be there and help out?
- After spending time together, are you encouraged and strengthened? Joyful?
- Can you say that you are a better follower of Christ because of this friend? And, would they say the same about you?
Proverbs 17:17 says a friend loves at all times, and that is exactly what we typically like about our friends. But a little further into Proverbs is a verse that speaks to the real purpose of close friends.
Look at this great verse in Proverbs 27:17
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
The real test of a close friend is that he or she makes you better. God’s desire for our friendships is that we continually encourage, and push one another to grow and mature in Christlikeness. It is much more than simply enjoying one another’s company.
If you have never seen a blade sharpened, you might miss the imagery of this verse. However, the principle matters more than the imagery. The principle is that interaction between good friends, as they support, encourage, correct, and help each other will hone each friend’s skills in handling the challenges of life. Particularly, the challenges of living a life committed to Christ. One thing is for certain when it comes to sharpening blades. The sharpening agent must get very close to the blade. It has to be right against it and be moved back and forth with intense pressure to do the hard work of sharpening.
Closeness is the key, and the simple truth is that closeness in friendships does not develop by chatting about sports, shopping, movies, weather, or other people. Real friends who work at making each other better, spend time in close proximity and continually grow closer as they work through the complexities of life.
Evaluate your friendships with these questions and the principles of God’s Word, then thank God for your friends. If some friendships are not the kind you know God wants you to have, pray for that friend and ask God to change the friendship into one that honors Him. Remember- you need close friendships built on biblical principles just as much as the next person, and God wants to work in and through those friendships.