The Bible says that the greatest love is the one who gives his life for his friends (John 15:13). Jesus calls us his friends and loves us, even with all our faults. Jesus is the perfect example of friendship revealed in the Bible, because He gave His life to reconcile with God all those who believe in His sacrifice. He died in our place because He is a true friend.
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can be friends with God. Sin no longer separates the one who is saved, from friendship with God. This means we can have a relationship of true intimacy, unity and love with our Creator.
Friendship with God affects our friendships with others. The believer who knows the true friendship of the Bible will try to be a true friend because: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)
Therefore, true friendship is based on the love of Christ and Jesus is our great example of the most valuable friendship of all.
We must choose friends who love the Lord and have pure hearts. The Bible says, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
Friends are people who have things in common like studying the Bible, and who enjoy each other’s company. We can have many acquaintances with whom we get along well, but a true friend is a person who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
A true friend gives us biblical advice and discourages us from going against God’s word. They encourage us to: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
A Christian friend should respect our decisions even if they do not agree with them; knowing that whatever decisions we make, we are the ones that ultimately will be responsible for them: “For we (all believers) must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Jesus is not only our best Friend but also our one and only Judge.
A relationship of friendship requires loyalty and fidelity, and therefore God disapproves of any kind of betrayal. Gossip can destroy friendships and the Bible says in Proverbs 16:28: “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.”
It is worth keeping true friends as the Bible says: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” (Proverbs 27:9)
A true friend cares about your welfare, and therefore, is open, honest and sincere with you, in a sensitive and gentle way, even if at times it “hurts”. The Bible says: “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.“ (Proverbs 27:5-6)
What characteristics do we need to have to be a good friend? The Bible says in Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Here are some additional characteristics of true friendship according to the Bible:
Love is the key to any genuine relationship; true friendship is a symbol in brotherly love. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17)
One of the most known cases of genuine friendship in the Bible is between David and Jonathan, as you can see in 1 Samuel 20 and 2 Samuel 9. Their friendship was so strong that Jonathan risked the wrath of the father to save the life of David, and David looked after the son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth when Jonathan died.
Friends like being together and defend each other. “One man can be defeated, but two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
True friendship respects the value of the person and demands their best. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
A true friend helps his companion when they know that he is experiencing difficulties or problems. “Do not abandon your friend or the friend of his father; when hit by adversity do not go to the house of his brother; best is the close neighbor than a distant brother.” (Proverbs 27:10)
The Bible tells us that the hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered (Proverbs 11:9). We need to be aware that the mouth can be used either as a weapon or a tool. We either hurt our friends or build them up. Sadly it is often easier to destroy than to build, and most people have received more destructive comments than those that encourage them. Our words make a difference; are they a weapon for destruction or tools for construction?
What kind of friend do you want to be? And how many people you call friends would you be willing to give your life for?