A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24 NKJ)
A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs17:17 NKJ)
Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NKJ)
Twist and Turns
Friendship is a strange and wonderful thing, subject to more twist and turns than a roller coaster. In fact it is as exhilarating as any ride a theme park can offer or as calming as a day at a spa. It may encompass anything from a simple acquaintance to a deep abiding relationship. An acquaintance however is a casual relationship not requiring the commitment of self and does not fall into the true sense of friendship. True friendship, however; requires willingness to lay down one’s life-a willingness to give more than one takes.
Today we are going to focus on the deeper aspects and responsibilities that build the framework of a lasting covenant friendship. Elastic like in nature, true friendship has the ability to expand, and stretch around anything that comes its way (my definition). Time can never be an enemy and functions as an ingredient to deepen the relationship.
Qualities of a Friend
You may ask what qualities make a potential relationship meet the criteria of mutual trust and affection. I submit this; there must be a basic need and understanding of the lack of ones own abilities to handle and accomplish every detail and aspect one’s own life without the input of others.
Understanding one’s need eliminates the enemy of friendship; pride. Pride is summed up in two words, self-exaltation and selfishness. The elimination of pride allows for the development of another key ingredient; humility.
True humility comes from the awareness of one’s own lack of superiority and acknowledgment of apparent weaknesses, leading to the submission of one’s own self to the service of others without judgment (my definition). The habit of laying your life down develops an inner sense, resulting in the ability to listen and hear on a deeper level. This produces the wisdom to appreciate and draw out the gifts and qualities resident in others.
Friends are Treasure Hunters
Often gifts dwell in others hidden by many situational layers and often cloud their own perspective about who and what they can be. They need a friend-a friend who loves at all times and takes the time to see beneath the veneer of self-doubt to the longing…to the need to be important to someone.
In this case, it is the understanding and knowing of a true friend who has the ability to bring what is best to the surface-a friend who realizes spoken words are not always necessary. By giving their unconditional love they produce a place of calm acceptance where thoughts once hidden by circumstances and self-doubt are allowed to drift to the surface without fear of condemnation or the onslaught of lectures. If we truly understand we will not emulate Job’s friends. Instead we will imitate Jesus takes the heavy yoke does not condemn. He loves at all times and so should we. Friends should be treasure hunters first and foremost.
Pride Has No Place
When it comes to friendship, pride has no place-no prominence. It matters not where the solution comes from; only that it comes, displaying infinite wisdom God and our subjection to it.
Elimination of pride and the embracing humility are wonderful things, yet they require another companion; sacrifice. Sacrifice is the willingness to forfeit personal needs, wants and desires to meet the immediate need of another. Sacrifice is more than an attitude. It is a way of life which harbors truth and believes the intrinsic value of a friend is of greater importance than one’s own comfort or agenda. Through the sacrificial laying down of one’s life a crucial element of friendship is formed: trust.
Trust Understands The Code Of Silence
Trust is a conviction and belief in another’s uncompromising dependability born out of positive experiences, which leads to openness and reliance on one another. True friendship requires confidential ethics greater than those of a lawyer or doctor. It requires the code of silence. All need a safe harbor and the sin of betrayal has shipwrecked many a soul.
All this seems fine and well until we look at the fallen nature of man, knowing perfection does not exist. This is where one of the most vital ingredients to friendship comes into play; forgiveness. Understanding we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God makes way for a culture of true forgiveness to exist among true friends. Judge not least you be judged.
Born For Adversity
According to the Word a friend-a brother in Christ is born for adversity. What is adversity anyway? It is hardship, difficulty, danger; unfavorable experiences and yes even great suffering just too mention a few. Many times we judge in times of adversity. I have seen many judging those they know who get sick, have financial issues and so on as being in sin. Nothing is ever that simple. I am not saying there aren’t consequences to sin which sometimes lead to adversity. However, I am saying, “Be careful.” The Scriptures say we are born to bear up one another’s burdens and are called to restore them in a spirit of gentleness. We are to do this keeping in mind our own vulnerability to temptation (Galatians 6:1).
Breeches Of Trust
Sometimes a serious violation ore breech of trust can take place within a friendship leaving wounded hearts in wake. Ideally this would not be so but we must face the fact we are imperfect people. Though we try to walk out a righteous walk according to the Word sometimes we fail and must afford the same forgiveness we are given. Regardless of how, what or why we fail, sometimes trust is indeed breeched and must be repaired. The only remedy is time and humility demonstrated through consistent acts proving otherwise. We can often continue to love while trusting again is a whole other ball game.
We will be less inclined to be bitter or angry when trust is broken when understand friendship is not perfect, hence the roller coaster, because we are not perfect. If someone has violated our friendship we should be very careful not to judge. The shoe could be on the other foot sooner than we think.
The Power Of Offense And Forgiveness
Friendship is emotional and this component cannot be denied. It is a two sided coin, consisting of positive and negative aspects resulting out of the makeup of any given moment or day. Emotions fluctuate but truth does not. We are given a choice when our emotions tell us one thing and the truth tells us another. We get to choose which we will serve.
In other words, we are subject to offense at any given time. This is where the rubber meets the road, revealing the core of where our relationship with the Lord is. The Bible teaches us that if we love His law we will not be easily offended. Here loving the Word-loving God is the key to loving others…even our friends.
The first thought we ought to have should not be the inspection of another but the introspection of our own hearts. Given the tendency of close friendships to be like iron sharpening iron, occasions do arise providing opportunities for offense.
Offenses usually come out of unmet expectations and one’s own pride or shall we say selfishness. This produces a heart hardened to the core and damages what is more valuable than gold; a friend. Once again enters the need to practice the key element to all relationships; forgiveness. O’ how much easier it would be to not judge in the first place…to not reject…to not betray because of our own self-centered ways of being and doing. How much easier it would be if we didn’t require more of others than we are willing to give.
The Main Ingredient
As we discussed previously, forgiveness is the main ingredient and the very foundation of the Cross and what Jesus died for. Forgiveness produces the elastic like nature of friendship and has the ability wrap around any and everything life throws at it. And this includes the manifest weaknesses of our friends or those we love.
The very nature of forgiveness brings about the destruction of pride, creating a humble heart capable of the sacrifice necessary to sustain a long and lasting covenant relationship. May we walk according to the words of Jesus said of Himself; I did not come to condemn the world but to forgive them (c.f. John 3:17).
Time Has Come
Time has come to step up to the plate and evaluate ourselves and our commitment to friendship and relationships as it relates to the Word of God. Are we reaping what we are sewing? We need to look around at our lives and see what the answer might be.
With all this in mind and in light of all we have discussed, whose life have your stretched yourself around with the willingness to lay your own life down in unconditional love and surrender.
Things To Contemplate
- Have you violated trust with a friend or someone you love in any way and if so have you done what is necessary to make it right?
- Are you offended at a friend for any reason? If so, take time to release the offense and make way for humility in your own heart.
- How can you personally help provoke your friends unto good works in a practical and real way?
- Define forgiveness, trust, humility and sacrifice in your own words.
- Examine your friendships. Do you give more than you take? Do you always need the credit for any successes or run at the first sign of failure?
- Do you often depend on your own abilities alone to solve the issues of your life or do you value the aspect of iron sharpening iron which takes place in true friendship?
- Are you one who operate in a “code of silence” when it comes to the confidentiality of a friend?
- What do you need to do the most to walk in relationship with those you love with a heart of humility and self-sacrifice?