Friendship in a Scriptural Sense
by: Dr. Allen Domelle
Friendship is often misunderstood. I hear people often say that they are going to be a friend to their friends. The problem with what they are saying is that their friendship is the tool they use to compromise. Many men of God won’t stop associating with someone because they are their “friend.” I have watched many men who have compromised doctrine that are still allowed on the platforms of national conferences under the excuse that these men have been their friends.
Several years ago, as a younger preacher, I went to my pastor to ask him about a respected preacher who seemed to preach in places where most preachers would never preach. I asked my pastor, “How does this man get away with preaching in places that I would be crucified if I preached in the same churches?” The main reason this man preached in these churches was because of his friendship with these pastors. Whether or not it was right for this man to preach in these places is not the purpose of this article; the purpose of pointing this out is to show how misunderstood friendship is among Believers.
Being a true friend is one of the rarest qualities in people today. I often tell people that you rarely have more than ten friends in your life. When I say friends, I am talking about a friend in a scriptural sense. Many Believers have compromised the real definition of friendship by quoting that they are going to be a friend to their friends no matter what they do.
There are two great illustrations of friendship in the Scriptures that point out what true friendship is all about. The first illustration is God. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” God is that friend who “sticketh closer than a brother.” One of the greatest things about God is that no matter what we do, God never leaves us. He is always there for the Believer, even when we don’t deserve it.
The second illustration of friendship is the friendship between David and Jonathan. 1 Samuel 18:1 says about these two men, “And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” These men were knit together in friendship both in life and death. They never let anything stop their friendship, and David even honored his friend after his death. There are several things I would like to point out to you about true friendship.
- You don’t have to be my friend for me to be a friend.
We often think that two people have to agree to be friends. This is not true. Just because you don’t want to be my friend can’t stop me from being your friend. The best illustration of this is Jesus Christ. Zechariah 13:6 says, “And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” Jesus called those who crucified Him His friends. These people certainly would not have called Jesus their friend, but He chose to be theirs.
One of the greatest tests of what kind of friend you are is if you are willing to be a friend to someone who doesn’t want to be a friend to you. In other words, can you be kind and friendly to those who have no desire to be with you? Just because others don’t choose you to be their friend doesn’t mean that you can’t be theirs.
- Your treatment of me doesn’t dictate my friendship to you.
Just because you are not good to me does not mean that I can’t be your friend. Friendship is never based on what you can do for me, but what I can do for you. Psalm 41:9 says, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” If you base your friendship with others by their treatment of you, you will one day find yourself a lonely person. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” This verse doesn’t say that your friend has to treat you right, but that you must show yourself friendly.
- True friendship is revealed when your friend can do nothing for you.
The test of true friendship is when a person can’t do anything for you, will you be a friend to them? David proved his friendship to Jonathan by still being a friend even when Jonathan was dead. Being a friend to someone because of what they can do for you is not being a friend at all, it is being an opportunist. There are many opportunists who you will find in this world, but your true friends are the ones who are friendly to you when you can’t do anything for them. Likewise, your quality of friendship to others is determined by whether you will be a friend to others when they can do nothing for you.
- A true friend stands with you when all forsake you.
Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:16, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” There was one person who stood with Paul when all forsook him, and that person was Timothy. Timothy was a true friend. If you are going to be a true friend, you must be willing to be on the wrong side of the populace to be a friend to your friend. Being a true friend won’t always be popular, but it is Christlike.
- A true friend stands against you when you do wrong.
Proverbs 27:14 says, “He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.” There are times when you are going to have to tell your friend that they are wrong. This is one of the hardest things you will do, but if you are a true friend, you will not allow your friend to do something without warning them. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Sharpening something means there will be times of friction, but it will make you or your friend a better person. If you are silent when your friend does wrong, you are not much of a friend.
- A true friend defends you when you are wrongly attacked.
Of course, this is one of the most talked about definitions of friendship. It is in the times of attack that you often find your true friends. Jonathan was willing to stand against his father and with David during Saul’s attacks against his friend. Again, silence, when your friend is attacked, is not much friendship. Through many battles that I have had to fight, I have had many “friends” say they are praying for me, but there was no visible defense coming from them. Telling someone you are praying for them is good, but defending them when they are wrongly attacked is what real friends do.
- A true friend is a friend when you are gone.
David showed what a true friend was after Jonathan died. David still wanted to honor his friend, and that is where Mephibosheth is found in the Scriptures. Let me ask you, do you still honor the requests of your friends after they are out of sight? Do you still pray for them when they have not been around you? Do you keep your word to them even when they have passed to Heaven? A true friend will be a friend even when their friends are not present or are gone to Heaven.
- A true friend doesn’t have to agree with you to be your friend.
It is so important to understand that you don’t always have to agree with someone to be your friend. I have at times found my friends as my opponent on an issue, but that doesn’t stop me from being their friend. If adversity is what causes you to stop being a friend, you were not a friend in the first place. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” There are times when you and a friend will be on the opposite sides, but opponents over something doesn’t mean that you have to stop being a friend. It might mean that you can no longer preach together or go to places together, but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop being their friend just because you disagree. Friendship is often made stronger through times of opposition.
- A true friend doesn’t demand perfection for friendship.
A friend will expect you to make mistakes at times, and will also realize you may hurt them, but they will still be your friend. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” If your friend has to be sinless or perfect, you will find yourself friendless. The closer you get to a person, the more you will discover their weaknesses. Don’t let the discovery of flaws in a person cause you to quit being their friend.
True friendship is a rare quality to find. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…” This verse is teaching that you should stop looking for people to be friendly to you so that you can be friends, and instead determine to be a friend to people. You will find when you are a friend to others is when you find yourself having many friends. The best way to define friendship is by stating: it’s not what your friend can do for you, but what can you do for a friend.