Teaching Values: Friendship

by Jeff Asher

A friend is someone "attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard." A friend is a sympathizer, a helper or patron. Some synonyms for friend are: comrade, chum, pal, boon companion, confidante and mate.

In the Bible a friend is a person whom one loves and trusts; a close companion or comrade (Genesis 38:12). Perhaps the most famous friendship in the Bible was that of David and Jonathan (I Samuel 18:1-4). Abraham was called God's friend (2 Chronicles 20:7), and God spoke to Moses "face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Exodus 33:11). Jesus said we are His friends if we obey Him (John 15:14).

A Bible Example of Friendship

The friendship of David and Jonathan is perhaps the best known friendship in human history (1 Samuel 18:1-4). Why were these two men drawn to one another? A cursory observation might suggest that they were not suitable or likely to be friends. Jonathan was older than David. He was the son of a king, whereas David was the son of a poor shepherd. Jonathon was a mighty warrior and David an inexperienced youth.

However, these two men--and necessarily all men--could build a friendship because the essential ingredients were there for a lasting camaraderie.

First, David and Jonathan became friends because they held a common faith. Both of these men were committed believers in the Almighty (I Samuel 14:6; 17:39). Jonathan took the garrison at Michmash single-handedly and David slew Goliath because both were confident that the battle belonged to God.

Second their friendship formed because they both possessed incredible courage (I Samuel 14:7-13; 17:32-37). No doubt Jonathan saw in David many things that he knew were true of himself, qualities which are rare among men. Jonathan knew that David was a man he could trust and upon whom he could rely in difficult times (Proverbs 25:19).

Finally, and perhaps most important, this friendship was built upon an admiration for the wisdom each perceived in the other (I Samuel 14:28-31; 17:38-39). In order for a friendship to thrive each must bring to the relationship something that strengthens the other (Proverbs 27:6, 17). Friendships are made for improvement, comfort and achievement. Rarely do men become friends who do not perceive in another either an admirable quality they themselves have or one they desire to possess.

What Do Friends Do?

Friends help each other (Proverbs 17:17; 27:10). The whole design of friendship is to avoid being left alone when the times of hardship, trial and calamity arise (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). A man with a friend is a threefold cord.

Friends share everything. When Jesus told the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, He revealed a fundamental truth about friends (Luke 15:6, 9; Romans 12:15). Jesus illustrated this truth when he sent Peter to pay the Temple Tax (Matthew 17:27). Friends share the joys and the sorrows, the gains and the losses. Where I come from a friend is someone "who would give you the shirt off his back" and "the last dollar in his pocket."

Friends are loyal. They don't reveal secrets (Proverbs 11:13). They stick with you "rain or shine," in the good times and the bad (Proverbs 17:17). There's a great quote from James Bowie, hero of the Alamo. Bowie was complaining that his friends had forsaken him after a terrible error in judgment on his part. His companion in the conversation asked, in amazement at Bowie's displeasure, "Well, you do know you were wrong." To this Bowie replied, "Well, yes, but that is when I needed them most!"

Friends offer comfort. Job lamented the fact that when his friends came to his aid in his time of calamity that rather than comfort him, they began to accuse him falsely of sin (Job 6:14-15). They were "miserable comforters," that is, they offered no consolation and showed no pity (Job 16:2, 20; 19:19). Job endured the failure of his relationships, as did David (Psalms 38:11) and, even, Our Lord (Matthew 26:56). From Jesus we learn what a real friend is (John 15:13). While others may forsake us, we always have a friend in Jesus (Hebrews 13:5-6). Jesus learned this from His Father (John 16:32). Friendship is intended to head us off from and bring us up out of the depths of despair and loneliness (Proverbs 27:17).

Friends give counsel. Advice is often worth what you pay for it, and it seems everybody has it to give away. Thus, a man needs good friends as a source of trustworthy counsel in which he has complete confidence (Proverbs 27:9). The good counsel of a friend can make all the difference in life (Proverbs 27:19). The value of this counsel is that it will be honest in its critique and intended for our good (Proverbs 27:6, 17:9a). And, a real friend will never counsel us to go contrary to the faith (Deuteronomy 13:6-9).

Teaching Friendship

Perhaps one of the greatest skills we will impart to our children is that of making friends. In order to begin, we must teach our child how to be a friend (Proverbs 18:24). This involves our helping him develop all those attributes of character that make him worthy of the friendship of others (Psalms 35:14). As a parent, you must lead your children to be trustworthy, kind, loyal, brave, men and women of faith and love.

You must impart to them an understanding of the difference between friendship and cronyism (Proverbs 6:1, 2; 19:4, 6-7; Luke 6:27-38). There are always people who will feign friendship for what they perceive you are able to give them (Proverbs 6:3; 14:20). In youth we often unwisely confuse popularity with friendship. We mistake pleasurable association with companionship. Being the center of attention and invited to all the parties does not mean one has friends.

Another important life lesson we need to impart to our children is control of the tongue, the lack of which often adversely impacts friendships (Proverbs 16:28; 17:9). They must learn not to gossip, but rather one whose speech is always uplifting and wise (Psalms 141:3; Proverbs 22:11).

Finally, model this behavior before your own children (I Timothy 4:12). Let them see in you how a friend behaves and they will have ready made friends (Proverbs 27:10).