“Friendship is to be valued for what there is in it, not for what can be gotten out of it. When two people appreciate each other because each has found the other convenient to have around, they are not friends, they are simply acquaintances with a business understanding. To seek friendship for its utility is as futile as to seek the end of a rainbow for its bag of gold. A true friend is always useful in the highest sense.”
Biblical friendship is a gift from God and the worth of a brother in Christ who loves you in truth, faithfulness, and commitment cannot be estimated. Therefore, friendship, as described in this 3-part series, is highly valued.
In the first post, we learned of the indispensable need for biblical friendship. This was then followed by a description of four marks of a true friend. Today, Jonathan Holmes provides us with the elements that contribute to developing these treasured relationships. But, first, he reminds us of the most famous friendship in the Bible, that of Jonathan and David, which is described in summary statement in 1 Samuel 18:1-3.
As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.
How is this kind of soul-knitting friendship forged and cultivated? The elements that contribute to biblical friendship may be presented in eight pairs.
1. Covenant & Commitment: Biblical friends demonstrate a loyalty to each other that transcends the world’s superficial commitment to spending time together solely because of mutual interests.
2. Time & Talk: Biblical friends spend time together, which includes heart-to-heart conversation. Time is currency for men. We show the value of our investments through the use of our time.
3. Meals & Mingling: In the Bible, sharing a meal with someone is a means of showing them honor. Biblical friends honor one another with mingling over meal times together.
4. Intentionality & Pursuit: Biblical friendships do not develop through happenstance, but intentional relationship development.
5. Sacrifice & Service: Biblical friends sacrifice for each other and serve one another.
6. Prayer & Petition: Biblical friends pray for their friends, about their friends, and with their friends.
7. Asking & Inviting: If we want a biblical friend then we must ask someone for this friendship and invite them into our life.
8. Confrontation & Caring: As noted in yesterday’s post, a true friend speaks truth into his friend’s life, but does so with compassion. A biblical friend cares enough to confront his friends in love.
A biblical friend is an essential part of God’s process of sanctifying us—molding us into the image of Christ. Therefore, a man who has a friend that cares most about his friend’s growth in Christ and his friend’s experience of God’s blessing is a wealthy man.
Charles Bridges (1794 – 1869), the well-known English preacher and theologian, understood this very well. Therefore, his wise words are a fitting conclusion to this series on biblical friendship.
What is a friend, who will be a real blessing to my soul? Is it enough that he will humour my fancies, and flatter my vanity? Is it enough that he loves my person, and would spend his time and energies in my service? This comes far short of my requirement. I am a poor straying sinner, with a wayward will and a blinded heart; going wrong at every step. The friend for my case is one, who will watch over me with open rebuke; but a reprove when needful; not a flatterer. The genuineness of a friendship without this mark is more than doubtful; its usefulness utterly paralyzed.
Again, I wish to express my appreciation to Jonathan Holmes whose teaching at our church’s recent men’s retreat has formed the content of this series on biblical friendship. Jonathan is a fellow council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and pastor at the Green campus of Parkside Church in Ohio.
NOTE: Jonathan’s work on biblical friendship is now published in the book The Company We Keep.