As we go through life, whether we’re male or female, single or married, one thing we all have in common is that we need friendship. The Bible tells us that we were created for company (Gen 2:18), and that friendship is good and helpful for us (Prov 18:1, Eccl 4:9-12); there are all kinds of examples of friendship throughout its pages. But how do we make good friends, and more importantly, how do we make sure we are a good friend?
Of course, everyone wants to have friends that they have something in common with and can have a good time with. From the Bible we can learn that the best kind of friends provide more than that.
Proverbs 17:17 tells us that “a friend loves at all times”. It’s good to know that the people around you will stick with you during difficulties as well as in good times. If our friends go through changes in their lives, they should still be able to depend on us and our love for them should remain constant despite their circumstances. We should celebrate our friends’ victories without being jealous of them, and be sensitive towards them in their sad times (Rom 12:15). Loving at all times also means it’s important to forgive quickly and generously when someone hurts us or we fall out (Eph 4:32).
If our friends go through changes in their lives, they should still be able to depend on us and our love for them should remain constant despite their circumstances.
To be a good friend, we need to be prepared to spend enough time with someone to get to know them properly. This means we need to listen to what they talk about, to know what’s important to them and what’s happening in their life. It’s all too easy to want to focus on ourselves in conversation, but if we love our friends we will try not to put ourselves too often at the centre (1 Cor 13:5).
Galatians 6:2 says we should “bear one another’s burdens”: as much as we need to be supportive to our friends, we also need to allow them to be a friend to us. We can’t have a good friendship with someone if they open their whole life to us and we don’t share anything about ourselves with them. Of course, we’ll probably find that we need each other’s help at different times and we’ll take it in turns to rely on each other more. As a good friend, we should also be honest and willing to tell our friends lovingly when we think they are making mistakes (Prov 27:5-6), and of course, we need to be prepared to accept that kind of honesty in return.
The best friend
Of the many examples of friendship in the Bible, the best one is, of course, friendship with God Himself. In the Old Testament, we read that some people “walked with God” and many enjoyed a special friendship with Him. God graciously befriended them and revealed His character to them more clearly even though they were sinful and unable to approach Him, for example, Noah, Jacob and David.
This self-sacrificial friendship that we have received from Jesus challenges us to befriend others in the same way.
When Jesus Christ came into the world, He was the ultimate example of God’s grace in befriending humanity. During His time on earth, He was known as the friend of sinners (Matt 11:19). He was prepared to spend time even with the least popular in society, and His death on the cross made it possible for us to have a relationship of friendship with God and look forward to spending eternity with Him. This self-sacrificial friendship (John 15:13-15) that we have received from Jesus challenges us to befriend others in the same way.