The Book of Friendship
The Bible has a lot to say about friendship. We could even argue that
friendship is one of the Bible’s major themes—the Bible is the Book of
God existed from all eternity in the friendship of the Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, enjoying a perfect, unbroken relationship
with one another. God created human beings to enter into that existing
friendship, to enjoy what God already enjoyed in himself. Creator
invited creature to participate in something beyond wonderful.
Tragically, we rebelled against God and, through our betrayal, ruptured
that friendship. We walked away and were content to exist on our own,
severed from God.
But God is a good friend—the kind who initiates reconciliation even
though he is the innocent party. To do this, he sent his Son, Jesus,
into the world to be a friend to sinners, to defeat the sin that
separated them and draw them back into relationship with the Father. And
now, by putting our faith in Jesus Christ, we are restored to what we
once enjoyed. Though we cannot now see God face to face, we wait with
eager anticipation for the day Christ returns and restores to us all of
the intimacy we once experienced. We will be forever with God, forever
The friendship we experience with God provides the model for the
friendships we can and should experience with other human beings. The
intimacy God calls us to enjoy with others is not based merely on common
interests or shared experiences. It looks beyond gender and color or
any other easy division. It is a truly spiritual friendship in which we
are bound together by God, in God, and for God. Because it is a
spiritual friendship, it will exist beyond this earth and beyond the
grave. It will endure forever.
The Man of Friendship
Friendship is a great gift of God. Spiritual friendship, friendship
shared in Christ, is an even greater gift. Spiritual friendship with
other godly men is one of life’s greatest privileges and highest joys.
Do you have a close friend? Are you a close friend to another man?
You need friends for the sake of your well-being. In recent years
biblical commentators have looked with suspicion on the relationship of
David and Jonathan. Some have read David’s lament upon Jonathan’s death
and imagined them as a secretly gay couple: “I am distressed for you, my
brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me
was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26). But
David is not weeping for a lover who shared his bed, but a friend who
shared his life. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for
adversity” (17:17). Through the turmoil of constant betrayal, multiple
marriages, and running for his life, David could always count on his
friend Jonathan. Theirs was the truest and deepest kind of friendship
that endured every kind of adversity. Who loves you at all times and is
at your side during hardships?
You also need spiritual friendships for the sake of your soul. You
are a sinful person who can hold tight to your depravity. You are a
weak-eyed person who often cannot see yourself as you are. You are a
selfish person who sometimes struggles to live for anyone or anything
apart from yourself. You need friends who will help you, serve you,
strengthen you, equip you. You need friends to temper your weakness, to
challenge your sinfulness, to comfort your sorrows, to speak truth into
your tragedies. “Iron sharpens iron,” says Solomon, “and one man
sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Who sharpens you? Who is sharpened
Truly, friendships are a great gift from a great God. Theologian Hugh
Black says, “Friends should be chosen by a higher principle of
selection than any worldly one. They should be chosen for character, for
goodness, for truth and trustworthiness, because they have sympathy
with us in our best thoughts and holiest aspirations, because they have
community of mind in the things of the soul. All other connections are
fleeting and imperfect.”
Do It Now!
Having looked at the beauty and necessity of friendships, let’s consider some ways to practically apply this in our lives.
Examine your friendships. Not all friendships are helpful
because not all friendships are truly spiritual. Wise old Solomon
commends good friends and warns against foolish friends when he says,
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools
will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). This does not mean that we cannot
enjoy friendships with non-Christians. But many Christian men spend all
of their time with those who don’t know Christ and rob their own soul of
the benefits of a spiritual friendship. Examine your friendships to
ensure you have friends who are wise and that you are not spending
inordinate amounts of time with fools. While you may be able to
influence them for good, it is just as likely they will influence you
Pray for friendships. Ask God to grant you friendships. This is a good and noble request to make of the God who is your friend.
Find a friend. The main factor that keeps us from friendship
is our pride. We are ashamed to initiate friendships, afraid to look
desperate or pathetic as we ask another man for some of his time. Don’t
be dumb. Don’t deny yourself something so good simply because you are
too proud to seek it. Many men are just like you—desperate for a friend,
yet too proud to ask. Man up and go find a friend.
Be a good friend. A friendship, like any other relationship,
requires effort—effort that is usually measured in time. Friendships
thrive where they are given sufficient time and they wither where they
are not. Consider opportunities for face-to-face time (sitting together
over coffee or another beverage) and side-by-side time (working together
on a project or enjoying a hobby or activity together). Your
relationship will grow in different ways in each context.
Run to Win
Of all the gifts God gives, few are more precious than friendship, an
enduring, sacrificial commitment to another person. Yet of all the
gifts God gives to men, few are more likely to be overlooked than this
one. Still, the Bible assures us: “A man of many companions may come to
ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs
18:24). Find that man in someone else, and be that man to him. If you
are going to run to win, you need to foster your friendships.
by Tim Challies, pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, popular blogger and co-founder of Cruciform Press.