“Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.”
One of the greatest misnomers in Christianity is what being a friend to your friend means. A true friend will always be a friend, but a true friend doesn’t mean that you will always agree or approve of your friend’s actions. Too many times friendship is described as always approving what your friends do. The Scriptures give clear guidelines as to what is the character of true friendship. Let me share with you six characteristics of scriptural friendship.
First, friendship is a friend when calamity comes. The verse above says, “Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity…” A true friend is always there when disaster happens. When sickness comes, a friend is there. When divorce happens, a friend is there. When your world crumbles, a friend is there. A calamity is the call of a friend to help a friend in tough times.
Second, friendship is a friend when the friend is distant. The verse above talks about a brother who is “far off.” A real friend continues to be a friend when their friend, for whatever reason, distances themselves from you. Just because they won’t spend time with you doesn’t stop you from being their friend. In these distant times, pray for your friend and drop notes of encouragement to the one who is distant.
Third, friendship is a friend when the friend stops being friendly. Verse 11 makes it clear that there will be times when your friend reproaches you. A true friend doesn’t demand that their friend always agrees with them. There are going to be times when your friends become your opponents, but you can still be their friend. This may seem impossible, but Christ called Judas a friend even though he was the one who betrayed Christ. The truest friend is revealed when their friend turns on them, but they still continue to love them and are friendly towards them.
Fourth, friendship doesn’t join friends in wayward actions. Verse 13 shows that there are times when your friend will do wrong, but you must not join them or approve of their actions. When a friend does wrong, you must continue to do right even when it means that they think you are not being a true friend. Friendship doesn’t mean you have to compromise Scripture to be a friend; rather, a true friend continues to hold to scriptural positions when their friend doesn’t.
Fifth, friendship doesn’t always say, “Yes.” Verse 14 talks about the fallacy of always praising a friend. Just because you are a friend doesn’t mean you have to always agree with them. True friends will have times of disagreement, but they are still friends. The person who always says, “Yes” to what you are doing is not your true friend. The truest friend will at times tell you, “No.”
Sixth, friendship has a way of improving the countenance of a friend. Verse 17 says, “…a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” The countenance is one’s demeanor. You will find that a true friend is not negative, nor are they melancholy, but they will have a way of brightening your day.
Are you a true scriptural friend to your friends? If not, let these six characteristics be the basis of your actions with your friends.