What God says about friendship
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: 1 Samuel 18:1-3
Devotional text: Romans 12:10
The word of God speaks to us in many ways. One of those which leads to a happy life is how to befriend one another. From Old Testament to New Testament, we find encouraging words that tell us the attributes of lasting friendship.
In 1 Samuel, we learn about the friendship between Jonathan and David. Jonathan was King Saul’s son. David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath and came into the king’s palace to sing calming psalms to the king, would eventually take his place as king.
We read these words from 1 Samuel 18:1-3 that show us the relationship between Jonathan and David: “As soon as he finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”
Jonathan, the son who should have been king, following his father’s reign, knew David was the one God destined to follow Saul. Jonathan loved David as his own brother, and there was no jealousy toward David. In their love for one another, we get the word “soul mates,” meaning they had a special bond of friendship that was deep and lasting. They understood one another.
We are lucky if we find this kind of friend in our lives. This kind of friend is one we can trust and who encourages us and helps us in times of trouble. This friendship goes both ways in understanding one another and one another’s needs. These friends celebrate in one another’s successes and listen to one another in troubling times. As Romans 12:15 tells us, they “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Turning to the Book of Proverbs, written by King Solomon, we read much about friends, both good and bad. These verses help reveal to us the many kinds of friends we may have: those who we call true, and those who become deceitful toward us. Let’s take a look at a few of them to build up our own knowledge about friendship.
Proverbs 11:13 says, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but the one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.” Proverbs 16:28 tells us, “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”
Here, we learn that a true friend will not reveal our failures to others. There is one thing we can know about people, from these two Proverbs: if someone speaks evil of someone else, be careful, for they will be speaking the same way about you.
In Proverbs 17:9, we learn more along these same lines, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but the one who repeats it separates close friends.”
However, if “a person loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious, even the king will be his friend” (Proverbs 22:11). Whereas there are people calling themselves friends who destroy each other as Proverbs 18:24 goes on to say, “a real friend sticks closer than a brother (or sister).”
In Proverbs 25:19, we learn that “trusting in a treacherous person in the time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.” Instead, Proverbs 27:10, tells us, “Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.”
This verse is not telling us to forsake family, but it makes sense to ask a friend who is close by for help when it is needed immediately rather than reaching out to family that is not near. A friend will come to our aid right away, as a trustworthy friend is family to us, able and willing to come.
Turning to the words of God found in the New Testament, from the gospels of Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12, we get this well-known Golden Rule: “And as you wish others would do to you, do so to them.” Therefore, friends should be good to one another.
Paul’s letter to the Romans also speaks to us about friendship. In 1:12, he writes, “That is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both your’s and mine.” In chapter 9:9-15, Paul continues by writing “let your love be genuine. Abhor evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor … ”
It is the Holy Spirit who resides inside believers who will help us to turn away from evil by giving us nudges that some things we face are wrong for us, just as the Holy Spirit brings us joy in doing what is good and right.
1 John 4:7 reiterates God’s love within us: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever has been born of God and knows God.”
However, we must be careful in choosing our friends. 1 Corinthians 15:33 cautions us that “bad company corrupts good behavior.”
Therefore, it is important for our own well-being to choose friends who “encourage one another and build one another up,” as written in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. As friends we are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). We do this with a listening ear and sound advice, helping where we are able and allowing, in the end, our friend to make their own choice.
Ephesians 4:32 has this to say about our friendships: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Philippians 2:2 reminds us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.”
These words remind us to be forgiving of people and not to give in to the conceit of trying to one-up our friends when they are telling their own story. That is the time to listen, to honor, to encourage.
Colossians 3:12-14 puts it this way: “Put on then … compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these, put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” These are the marks of a true friend.
I leave you with this scripture from John 15:15, from Jesus our Savior, who is and remains our best friend for eternity: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”