Chloë and I have been talking about friends and friendships the last couple of weeks and it occurred to me that maybe understanding what a friend and friendships can look like is something important to touch on. We all have friends and know the general idea, but what does Scripture say about friendships? According to the NIV Bible Dictionary a friend is an, “intimate companion or associate; one attached to another by affection or esteem”. Even from the definition we can see that there are different levels of friendships, intimate companions or associates. I know this is true in my life and I think it’s a healthy way to look at friendships. Not everyone is going to be your best friend, but there are going to be a few really close friends that you are much more open with and share deeper feelings with.
A common theme I’ve seen throughout the stories of friendships in the Bible is loyalty. If someone is your friend, no matter the level of closeness, loyalty is how you are able to identity their intentions. We can see this in the initial interactions Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have with Job. Job was a man who feared God and shunned evil and the Lord suggested him to Satan to do whatever he wanted to him but he was not allowed to kill Job. After all that Job went through, losing his family, his possessions, and becoming ill himself, his three friends, who were known for their wisdom, made their way to him to help, comfort and sympathize him. Once they got to him and saw how truly bad it was they wept with him, tore their clothes and put dust on their heads which were acts of sorrow, and they even sat in complete silence wth him for seven days. When comforting people who are mourning, it was Jewish tradition to stay silent until the mourner spoke. They did everything they could to come along side him, as friends, in his greatest time of need. In good times and in bad sometimes just showing up is all that’s needed from a friend!
Another is my favorite story of friendship in the Bible: David and Jonathan, (1 Samuel 18-20). They met after David moved into the palace to play the lyre for king Saul, Jonathan’s father, to sooth him when an evil spirit tormented him. They became instant friends and based their friendship on a commitment to God and no matter what circumstances arose they let nothing come between them. For Jonathan, this friendship put him in a tough spot since his dad wanted nothing more than to kill David because he was jealous of David’s popularity. He could have taken the easy way out and decided to not put in any effort and walk away from the relationship him and David had. But he didn’t! He chose to get dirty, make hard decisions, and stand by both his father and his friend. That is the truest form of loyalty and friendship; putting another before ones self. They were the best of friends and even made a covenant together to spare David’s life and ensure that David would show kindness to Jonathan’s family. They both held up their end and Jonathan warned David that his father was wanting to murder him and later on David found out about Jonathan’s son and moved him into the royal palace with him. It is truly an amazing example of friendship.
Another example that comes to mind is Jesus. He was called a friend of tax collectors and sinners. We can only imagine how much time He was spending with these people to be seen as their friend. It shows how he invested in them and gave up time from his day to be with them, talk with them, and share meals with them. When I think about it I just think of the joy and love and wisdom that would be coming from that table! When Jesus got labeled a friend of sinners it was a bad thing, but little did they know that it was a glimpse into what the church is supposed to look like. Jesus is the friend we can always count on, knowing He is there for us always, we just need to call on Him. He showed us how deep the love of friendship can be when He laid down His life for us so that we could know Him and befriend Him, (John 15:13). You can’t find a better friend than that!
All of these examples can give a different insight into friendships. From being there in trying times, to friendship that goes deeper than any other relationship, to intentional time spent with those that are important to us. Friendships come in many shapes and sizes, and that is part of the joy of friendship. No matter what each of your friendships look like I encourage you to invest in them, stay loyal to them, and stand by them in seasons of struggle or when you are mocked because of them, because as Proverbs 17:17a says, “a friend loves at all times…”.