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Is Friendship Worth it? – Good Friendships and Messy Friendships in the Bible

Who would want to spend their lives without friends? It has been said that if you end up with five really close friends over the course of your life then you should consider yourself to be blessed. Think about it; how many real close friends do you have? Not acquaintances, but true friends that know everything about you and still love you and vice versa.True friendship is a gift and should be treated that way. While true friendship is a blessing, good friendships are desirable.

God’s word offers guidance on the type of friends one should have. And what kind of person you need to be to have good friends. Having a best friend is a great thing; friendship does not always happen according to your dream world or the way you desire. However, it’s not linear or static or formulaic. Friendship is found between imperfect people among the concrete and messy realities of life. Be a friend to have friends.

Biblical friendship is distinct in that it brings grace, forgiveness and the truth of Jesus into those messy and imperfect realities. Friendships formed in real life are mingled with sin, suffering, conflicts, envy, unforgiveness, etc. For these, we don’t need to give up our desires. A rich opportunity for friendship exists when we reject the ideal wishful dream and understand God’s design for friendship and accept those imperfect friends who are right in front of us.

A great friendship in the Bible is seen between David and Jonathan. Jonathan was King Saul’s son, the rightful heir to the throne. He was a brave, loyal and natural leader. He was the closest friend of David. He didn’t put his personal well-being ahead of those he loved. He depended on God. The very first time David and Jonathan met, there was an immediate bond of love between them. 1 Samuel 18:1-4. But since God rejected Saul as the king of Israel and chose David to be the succeeding king, Jonathan gladly allowed it so. He could have chosen to be David’s rival to the throne, and that is what king Saul wanted. But NO. Jonathan remained a faithful friend of David. Saul, however, from the very beginning of David’s entry into the scene, foresaw a possibility of David taking over his throne. 1 Samuel 18:9: “so from that time on king Saul kept a jealous watch on David”. On the other hand, Jonathan saw God’s plan for Israel and the kind of king God wanted which He found in David; and he accepted God’s will, even though it meant that he would not get the throne. Good friends will share, care and dare to do anything for their friends’ good. Jonathan did exactly that. Good friendships enrich our lives beyond measure. Such relationships teach us that friendships are worth any struggle it takes to discover and become deep. Such friendships are rare, and such a joy when found!

A quality of good friendship is loyalty, which is costly. It is a selfless part of love. A loyal friend won’t live for himself or herself alone. Loyal people stand true to their commitment and are willing to suffer for their friends. Jonathan is a shining example of loyalty to his friend David. Jonathan realized the truth that God demanded of him; his ultimate loyalty. His relationship with God gave him the ability to deal effectively with the complicated situation in his life. Jonathan was loyal to David though it costed him the throne, his future and his family. His love for God and willingness for God’s plans to be fulfilled made Jonathan sacrifice his own security in order to protect David’s life. Love, loyalty and going to the extent of sacrificing his life for his friend based on the relationship with God, is true friendship.

David too was loyal to his friendship with Jonathan. He promised Jonathan that he would not harm Jonathan’s family when he became king. 1 Samuel 20:11-16.

When David became king, he desired to show kindness to Saul’s family for the sake of Jonathan. He took care of Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son. All through Mephibosheth’s life he sat at king David’s table to eat. David restored all that belonged to Saul to Mephibosheth. David fulfilled his covenant with Jonathan even when Jonathan was dead. This is the example of good and loyal friendship.

The example of a messy friendship from the Bible is Rehoboam and his friends. Rehoboam was the son of King Solomon and the grandson of King David. He was the third and last king of the United Kingdom of Israel. II Chronicles 10 describes how he lost his position as king of the United Kingdom of Israel because he listened to the wrong advice of his childhood friends along with those with whom he grew up. Thoughtless decisions based on the advice of his friends rather than elders, made him lose what was most valuable: the kingdom, and therefore he remained as king of only one tribe rather than 12 tribes that he had received. Rehoboam used friends and people to build his authority instead of using his authority to build the people. He depended on friends and people to make decisions ratherthan looking to God. The result was a divided kingdom; revolt gave way to build and strengthen the enemy. Bad friendships may cost us our lives and create disaster.

Holding to the Anchor Proverbs 27:17
Our goal is not to arrive at a linear version of friendship where we get all of our relationships lined up just so we can keep them that way for a lifetime. No, the goal of friendship is to secure ourselves to the sure, steadfast anchor of Christ, and while holding to that anchor, give and receive the gift of friendship as the opportunity arises. The goal is to enjoy God together with others as we move through life, to sharpen and allow ourselves to be sharpened by our friends.

We imitate Jesus with one another, willing to face the stark realities and consequences of sin, and all the while persevering in our efforts to offer love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, comfort and care for one another. In doing so, we display to one another and the world how God loves us. Through this manifestation, we bring Him glory. This is our destination.

We must not give up on dreams of friendship, because friendship is a good and godly desire. Yet we must be careful that our dreams align with God’s. The sense of struggle we feel in relationships and the physical and emotional separation we experience, we must recognize these feelings as a longing for the perfection and beauty of heaven. This is a beautiful desire, not something we should feel ashamed to have. But we must bring this desire to God and learn to trust and receive from him. As with any good gift, one should hold this desire in its proper place and appreciate what has been given to us right now, even if what he’s given us at present is not necessarily what we have envisioned.

A good, biblical friendship actually brings us to that place of longing, because it brings us back around to God. Friendship begins with God because all truth begins with him and because friendship was his idea in the first place. It ends with God because biblical friendship points us back to him and stirs our anticipation of unmarred, heavenly relationships with our Father and with others.

In the present, there are friendships which may be bumpy and broken. Yet, enjoying them that way is what makes it distinctly Christian and also dazzlingly beautiful.

How does our desire for friendship point us towards God?
Biblical Friendship Colossians 3:12–15
Sometimes, when the wounds of a friend run deep, our tendency is not only just to write the friend off but also the friendship. We’re hurt so badly that we give ourselves over to cynicism, bitterness, and resentment and we wonder if the friendship is worth the risk of wading through the emotions and hurts, attempting reconciliation, and making ourselves vulnerable again. We are friendly and sociable at a safe distance, but a heart-level friendship? It’s too risky.

Doesn’t true friendship mean dealing biblically with our inevitable hurts, being quick to forgive, crossing life-stage boundaries, and refusing to put others in categories? Doesn’t it mean pushing through discomfort and refusing to give up on friends even when they disappoint us? And perhaps the most important question: Isn’t it the greater blessing to be a person who seeks this type of community rather than clinging to false ideals and waiting for it to just “happen” to us?

We must look to serve rather than be served, which means it’s possible that we might not be served in the ways we hope for. We must be ever willing to broaden the circle, which means we must have an eye for the outsider rather than an eye for how we can be insiders, and it’s possible we might be forgotten in the process. We must be willing to address sin and conflict in an appropriate way, which means it’s possible we will see our own sins, and also might be rejected. The willingness to be vulnerable, which means we might be misunderstood and grace might not be extended to us, is what makes us long for a Christ-like bond.

Paul offers us a definition for friendship in Colossians 3:12-15. He exhorts us to be a godly friend to others by actively being patient, forgiving, loving, and thankful. The focus is on what we give to others, not what they give to us. We don’t do these things because we hope to get something in return. We do these things because that is how Christ showed his love towards us and because Christian friendship will always model itself after Christ. By actively pursuing others the way Christ pursues us, we not only extend an invitation for the friendship we desire, but we also discover the beautiful and ever faithful way in which Christ relates with us.

How is Christian friendship different from the friendship we learn in the world?

Beating the Comparison 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

We all harbor insecurities about our worth, about whether or not we’re accepted or “chosen” by others. Comparison breeds fearful isolation or eager validation-seeking. Neither of which are ingredients for flourishing friendships. When our expectations are met, all is well. But when they fall short, we feel dejected, rejected, unloved, frustrated, and deeply disappointed.  We unleash our harsh inner dialogue, taking off any restraint that keeps our thoughts grounded in truth, leading us to think critical thoughts of ourselves and others.

We privately crave the attention of a certain friend we admire. We use them to get what we want, perhaps a position or status that will get us where we want to be socially. We make assumptions about other friends based upon their outward appearances, often categorizing them by how they’re different from us.

We worry that we’ll mess up or lose the friendship we have, causing us to cling tightly to the gifts rather than the gift-giver. Such thoughts betray our desires for security, validation, love, acceptance, assurance, etc.

God asks us to lay all that weight of need on him, because laying it on others hurts them and hurts us. He asks us to view one another through a different lens. We’re to regard other friends as fellow new creations. We have the same need – redemption of sin and the same rescuer – the blood of Jesus, and we serve the same Master – Jesus.

As we rally around Christ, we look to one another not for the things only Christ can give but for gifts others can give – of edification and sharpening sanctification. The differences we see in others can be beautiful gifts given to us. The spiritual gift of a friend that we don’t ourselves possess can be a blessing to us when we’re in need of that specific ministry.

If we will let each individual stand alone as a beautiful new creation of Christ and not club them together according to secondary identities, we will have an opportunity to worship God instead of comparing and envying other friends. It’s only in taking this biblical perspective that we can have true unity and a deeper community we hope for. Only then can we be a godly friend to others.

When are you most likely to compare yourself to other friends? In what way is this dangerous to your friendships?
Side by Side Hebrews 10:25

Our faith tells us there will be a time when our longing for friendship will be fulfilled. We will be satisfied and at peace with one another, free of shaming and blaming, when we are in the right relationship with one another and with God. And so, having seen the big picture of time, we’re tugged back to the present day as though through a small portal. What do we have now in this gift called friendship? We have the gospel, our hope of what once was and what is to come. This gospel gives us the ability, as we wait, to practice what we’ll do in perpetuity and to draw toward one another in the imitation of how Christ has drawn near to us.
May we receive our friendships as gifts from God for us: but may they not be only for us. May they be signposts guiding any who will stop and seek directions toward what their hearts innately crave the most, pointing the seeker towards a person and a place where all longings will be no more. For it is only in true Christian friendship that two people who are different in every way possible: race, background, language, personality, socioeconomic level, can find a love like this.

Others shall know that we belong to Christ by our love for one another. It follows, then, that friendship is worth the effort.
It’s worth it to leave your wounded isolation and try again.
It’s worth it to forgive a friend.
It’s worth it to give your time and energy to your friendship.
It’s worth it to push through the awkward, to love, serve, seek and to understand. 
It’s going to be a long journey to get there. But enduring with one another and bearing with one another, by being willing to walk through the gore of life and hold our friends’ fragile stories close to ourselves while simultaneously offering them hope also by receiving wounded greetings from a faithful friend, we are linking arms and journeying toward that point.
When we sit side by side in the presence of God, we will be celebrating that we made it to our destination. We made it because of Christ, we made it with the help of our friends, and we made it together. 

How does your confidence in heaven affect your friendships today?

Aruna Fullonton, former UESI Staff lives in Hyderabad

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