What is a True “Friend”?

What is a “friend”? The dictionary gives this explanation: “a person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance.” Of course there are degrees of friendship. There are friends and then there are “friends.” Many people call even the briefest of acquaintances as friends. There is a real difference between an acquaintance who is friendly and a true friend. The English root for “friend” is “lover.” So a true friend is one who has demonstrated loving concern over a period of time.

The Bible describes a true friend. “A real friend is always loving and is like a brother born just for the purpose of helping during difficulties.” [Proverbs 17:17 NCMM] “A friend sticks closer than any brother.” [Proverbs 18:24 NCMM] “The pain [of counsel] caused by a true friend are honest and trustworthy. … Also the wise suggestions of a friend is sweet to the soul.” [Proverbs 27:6, 9 NCMM] A friend ALWAYS comes to the aid of a friend in need. Friends are NEVER critical of one another. That is left for married couples. Friends NEVER gossip or slander one another, but rather ALWAYS defend one another. A true friend can keep a confidence. True friends are always welcome and may even impose on one another at inconvenient times. [Luke 11:5-9] There are false friends, however.

Pseudo “Friends”

Job’s so-called three “friends” treated him more like an enemy by accusing him of some hidden sins. Even one of Jesus’ “friends” ended up betraying him. [Luke 12:4; Luke 21:16] Friends can get into an argument that alters or destroys their friendship. [Acts 15:39]

There are other types of false friends, people who have an agenda to their supposed friendship. Proverbs 14:20 puts it this way: A poor man is odious even to his friends; the rich have friends aplenty.” [NEB] Neither of these are true friends, but rather acquaintances with hidden agendas or wrong motives. Proverbs 19:4, 6, 7 adds: “Wealth makes many friends; but a poor man is deserted by his friends. [LAM] … Many pay court to a bountiful man: all are friends of a man who gives presents. [MOF] … A poor man’s brothers all hate him; how much more do his friends stand aloof from him!” [AAT]

Some times it becomes necessary to be very cautious as to whom we seek out as friends. The prophet warns: "Do not put your trust in a confidential friend." [Micah 7:5 NWT] Jeremiah 9:4-5 cautions: "Guard yourselves each one against his own companion, and put your trust in no brother at all. For even every brother would positively supplant, and every companion himself would walk around as a mere slanderer, and they keep trifling each one with his companion; and they speak no truth at all. They have taught their tongue to speak falsehood. They have tired themselves out merely in doing wrong.” [NWT]

A person may have his or her own criteria for having a friend. Even Jesus said that his friends were those who obeyed his commandments. [John 15:12-14] Jesus was accused of being "a friend of tax collectors and sinners." [Matthew 11:19] For this and other reasons early Christians called others in the Nazarene community “friends.” [3 John 14] In reality all Christians should be true friends to one another, rejecting none. However, how does one become friends with another?

What Causes People to Become Friends?

Proverbs counsels: “A friend is found to be friendly.” In order to have friends one must begin by being friendly to others. However, there are several factors in creating friendships.

A Biblical example of the above are David and Jonathan. Though there was a difference in their ages and backgrounds - one a shepherd and the other a prince - they became good friends. Their friendship is described in this manner: "Jonathan's very soul became bound up with the soul of David, and Jonathan began to love him as his own soul." [1 Samuel 18:1 NWT] David composed a poem to his friend: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.” [2 Samuel 1:26 NWT] It is true that married men and women may develop a relationship with a friend superior to their marriage. In other words, a woman, for example, may have a friend who is considerably closer than her mate. A woman may become jealous of her husband’s friendship with another man. If a husband or wife wants their mate as a friend they must act like a friend. This would mean, for example, not gossiping about one another, or not being critical of one another. Friends NEVER criticize one another while married couples due it almost daily.

Identifying True Friends

It is unthinkable - UNTHINKABLE - that a friend would be in need and the other not know it and not come to their immediate aid. This is particularly true if each one claims to be a Christian. For example, the disciple James writes: “My brothers, what is the profit if anyone says, ‘I have conviction,’ but does not have works? Is just his conviction able to save him? [For example], if a brother or sister is living without adequate clothing and lacks daily food, and anyone of you says, “Go in peace. Keep warm and well fed” -- but do not give them their bodily necessities -- what is the profit? Just so, conviction without works is dead by itself.” [James 2:14-17 NCMM] Such would be even more so then such brother or sister is a “friend.”

Never would a true friend behave like a Goat in failing to come to the immediate need of a friend. [Matthew 25:31-46] The beloved Apostle - who knew something first hand about love - wrote: “For example: if any of us has this world’s resources for maintaining life and is aware that another Christian is in need and yet slams shut the doors of his tender affections -- how is it possible that God still loves that person? My little children, make it your habit to always show loving concern, not in speech or words only, but in positive and real action.” [1 John 3:16-18 NCMM Paraphrase] It is completely unthinkable that a Christian with the means would not come to the immediate aid of a fellow Christian in need. And not just a token response, but rather one that actually helps the other to continue in their work as a Friends of the Nazarene. It is demanded by God that a true friend actually make a sacrifice to help a friend. The person who refuses to aid a brother or sister in real need would make themselves a “goat.” [Matthew 25:31-46]

Though the Christian with the means is duty bound to aid all in need, such are particularly bound by God to help those related in the faith. For Paul writes: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” [Galatians 6:10 Revised Standard Version]

Truly, as the Proverbs say, “A true brother is one who is there when there is a need.”

Interesting Quotes Regarding Friendship

Don't worry about knowing people, just make yourself worth knowing.

Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.

If you can buy a person's friendship, it is not worth it.

True friends have hearts that beat as one.

If you cannot think of any nice things to say about your friends, then you have the wrong friends.

Make friends before you need them.

If you were another person, would you like to be a friend of yours?

A good friend is one who neither looks down on you nor keeps up with you.

Be friendly with the folks you know.. If it weren't for them you would be a total stranger.

A friend is never known till he is needed.

Friendship is a responsibility... not an opportunity.

Friendship is the cement that holds the world together.

Friends are those who speak to you after others quit.

The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail and not his tongue.

Pick your friends, but not to pieces.

A friend is one who puts his finger on a fault without rubbing it in.

The way to have friends is to be willing to lose some arguments.

If a friend makes a mistake, don't rub it in....rub it out.

Deal with other's faults as gently as if they were your own.

People are judged by the company they keep and the company they keep away from.

A friend is a person who can step on your toes without messing your shine.

The best mirror is an old friend.

The best possession one may have is a true friend.

Make friendship a habit, and you will always have friends.

You will never have a friend if you must have one without faults.

Doing nothing for your friends results in having no friends to do for.

Anyone can give advice, and yet a real friend will lend a helping hand.

You can make more friends by being interested in them than trying to have them be interested in you.

A real friend is a person who, when you've made a fool of yourself, lets you forget it.

A friend is a person who listens attentively while you say nothing.

You can buy friendship with friendship, but never with dollars.

True friends are like diamonds, precious but rare; false friends are like autumn leaves, found everywhere.

A friend is someone who thinks you're a good egg even though you're slightly cracked

Friends of the Nazarene Publishing

Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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