The Beauty, Blessings, and Benefits of Christian Friendship

Adam Burrell


God created us for relationships. We see it pictured in the unity of the Trinity. We see it exemplified in the first humans he ever made (man was alone, so God made a companion for him). We can see and read about companionship all throughout the Scriptures; therefore, we know on a personal level that the Lord made us for relationships. It is innate in us. We desire to have friends. It is a distinctive characteristic of all humans. Since God has created us for companionship it stands to reason that he would show us and tell us what they should look like. While we do not have a direct list of “friendship qualifications and responsibilities” the same way we do other relationships in the Bible, the Proverbs do provide us with some sound principles when it comes to what a biblical friendship should look like. I have taken up a few for us to consider here as we seek to find the beauty, blessings, and benefits of Christian friendship.

Seek to Be a Loving Friend

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” —Proverbs 17:17

A faithful friend will seek to be a consistent friend. The word for love here can be used when speaking about the love of a husband and wife or just as it is here, a genuine and true friend. It has a broad usage. But here we see that this is not a fair-weather friend. No, this is the kind of friend who “loves at all times.” They have made up their minds. No matter the season, they will be a constant companion.  They are weathered. They are tested. This kind of loving friend is as constant as they come. They love at all times. Their love has been forged through seasons of adversity. They are “born for adversity.” When a difficult season comes, they do not leave. Instead, they say, “I was born for this.” This is the kind of friend that we should seek to be. A friend that loves at all times, and is like a brother, born for adversity.

Seek To Be a Persevering Friend

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” —Proverbs 18:24 

Here this familial language is again. This close friendship is compared to a brotherly relationship. Notice here, a persevering friend is one who is, first, friendly themselves. This kind of loving perseverance in friendship should be mutual. It isn’t to be a lopsided friendship. There is mutual love and affection for one another. A persevering friend is one who is there through it all—the highs and the lows. You may not have had a good relationship with your biological brother. This kind of positive family bond is sadly not a reality for some (Think about how the patriarchs thought about their brother, Joseph, or even King David’s own brothers and how they thought of him.) Yet, we find a wonderful example of this kind of preserving friendship in the lives of David and Jonathan. Their friendship was an unlikely one. Nevertheless, it was a persevering one. It is one that the writer of Proverbs would have been well aware of as well, as he was David’s son.  

When I think of this type of persevering friendship, I think of a dear friend of mine. We have been through many different seasons together. When my brother passed away tragically, 8 years ago, this friend was the first one to call me. When I first walked into the funeral home, he was the first one to greet me. He listened to me. He cried many tears with me. He loved me and persevered with me. He made me want to be a better friend. This kind of persevering friend should make you want to be a better friend. We should not just seek to find a friend who perseveres with us, but we should seek to be this kind of friend who will persevere as well.      

Seek to Be a Truthful Friend

Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” —Proverbs 27:5–6

Raise your hand if you like to have positive things said about you? Now, keep your hands up if you like to be rebuked for something that you did wrong? Is your hand still up? What if that rebuke was needed? I would hope you would desire that. This is where we find the next quality of friendship. A genuine friend will not conceal truth when a rebuke is necessary. Direct reproof is often hard to hear. Many do not want to reprove a friend. Why? Well, because it isn’t easy, and it could jeopardize that friendship. Yet, if your friend was about to get into a car accident, I am sure, you would yell at them and try to warn them to stop. Why? Because you love them. This kind of friend does not mind yelling “Stop!” or providing a word of warning or a rebuke if another friend needs it. This kind of friend will wound you when it is necessary, and then help to bandage you up later. These wounds may hurt, but they can be trusted, because you know that kind of friend has your best interest in mind. Their wounds are meant to correct not primarily hurt. 

If we are going to be a trustworthy friend, then we need to seek to be the kind of friend who will not throw our punches. We must be willing to say what God has said on a matter with love but also a firm backbone. We need to seek to be the kind of friend that will lovingly wound another with God’s truth if the situation calls for it. 

Seek to Be a Wise Friend

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” —Proverbs 27:9

Wisdom is both valuable and refreshing. In this verse, the writer, compares the pleasing aroma and revitalizing effect of oil and perfume to the wise counsel of a trusted friend. You may be one that can provide good advice when it comes to who to vote for in an election. You may be able to tell a friend when to buy or sell certain stocks. You may be able to explain how to knock 4 storks off someone’s golf game. There is a place for all of these. I am not saying that these things are bad. But how much more valuable of a friend would you be if you could provide biblical wisdom to your friend and not just cultural insight? What kind of friend would you be if you could provide wise and biblical counsel to a friend struggling in their marriage? What about providing biblical insight to one who is trying to figure out how to be a mom for the first time? How much of a blessing could you be to be able to point your friend to the Scriptures and explain how to be a good employee when their meanspirited and sinful boss is making their job difficult? This is the kind of counsel we need to be storing up so we can provide it when needed.           

If you want to make your friend’s heart truly glad, sure you can buy them some expensive cologne and provide something that smells great, yet what would be even sweeter is wise and “earnest counsel.” To do this you must fear the Lord and know how to apply his Word. We may have some work to do in this area as a friend, but it is a work worth pursuing. 

As we look at the four characteristics of a faithful friend, many of them, in part, could be achieved by a non-believer. A non-believer can love another friend. They can persevere and stick around in every season of life. If push came to shove, they could even provide a needed rebuke. At some level they could even give wise council from an earthly standpoint. So, what separates a good friend from a godly friend? What separates a Christian friendship from other friendships? Well, in short, Christ. It is the unity that we have because of the redemptive work of Jesus. He is the one who saved us. He is the one who is conforming us. So, let’s not settle on just being a good friend. Instead, we should work to be a godly friend. If we want to be the kind of friend that we find in the Scriptures, we must have Christ. He must be at the center of our relationship. 

Seek to be a Christ-like Friend 

But of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” —2 Corinthians 1:30

All of these characteristics that we find in the book of Proverbs we find perfectly personified in Jesus. There is a reason that Jesus is called “The personification of wisdom” by so many.1 He lived out these characteristics perfectly as our example. If we want to be the kind of true friend that we have just been hearing and reading about, then we need to look to and follow Jesus. 

He is perfectly loving:

We see this in his compassion for Mary and Martha at the death of their brother—Jesus’s cousin and friend—Lazarus. He loved them and cared for them. We also see the love that he had for his disciples. Notice, what he says in John 15, “You are my friend if you do what I command you.” Here he is saying that he doesn’t just love his disciples but all who do what I command you. This means all believers of every age. If you have believed by faith, then you are Jesus’s friend. He is and was a brother who was literally born for adversity. He was mocked, jeered, and persecuted. He went to the cross absorbing the wrath of his Father. He did all of this for the glory of the Father and for the sake of his people—his friends. Because he was perfectly loving, we too should seek to love in this manner. 

He is closer than a brother:

In Matthew 12:50 Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother.” Jesus was saying that his spiritual family is closer than his blood family. Just like no one can separate you biologically from a sibling, Jesus, is saying, I am always here. I am always close. I am not going anywhere. Nothing can separate us. This is the kind of friend that Jesus is and the kind of friend that we should seek to be when it is possible. 

He is always truthful and wise: 

Do you think Peter liked being told that he was allowing Satan to use him? Jesus directly looked Peter in the face and said, “Get behind me Satan” (Matt 16:23). He asked Paul, just prior to his conversion, “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).  Both Peter and Paul needed these faithful wounds, just as we need faithful wounds. Thankfully, the Lord provides them for us through the Spirit and the Word. When we read the Scriptures, they often have one of two effects. They either comfort us or they convict us. This is what our truthful and all wise God does for his people. He applies the Word perfectly in every situation by the illuminating work of the Spirit.                                                                  

When we think about friendship, maybe Jesus isn’t the first one that comes to mind, but he should be. Jesus is and was the perfect friend. And if we want to be a faithful friend, we must look to him as a great example. By all means, if you don’t have a friend like this, pray for one. We all need faithful friends. But, more than that, seek to be one. Because in seeking to be one, you will find yourself becoming more and more like our elder brother, our friend, our Savior, Jesus. If you want to experience the beauty, blessings, and benefits of Christian friendship then look to the Proverbs—and look to Jesus.

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