I’m sure we’ve all had friends, and endured the ups and downs of youthful friendship. Our friends can encourage us or bring us down, depending on who you choose to be in your circle. But how do we know which friends are right for us, and how should we approach friendship?
Let’s start with a simple question - Why do we need friends in the first place?
I was reading science articles on the internet one day, and came across one that said, “friendships can extend life expectancy and lower chances of heart disease”. Scientists have also proven that the release of oxytocin (the stuff in your brain that makes you feel warm and fuzzy) is related to social interactions. Strange?
Let’s look at the Christian perspective of what friendship means.
"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" - Proverbs 18:24
We are created as social beings
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and everything in it, and it was all good. But when He created Adam, notice that God said something different. He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Before sin came into the world, the first problem to exist was that the first man was alone - he did not have a friend or a community around him.
Since the beginning of time, humans have been created with the longing for true friendship. And we can’t live life to the fullest without it.
What makes a true friend?
As social beings, in life, we’ll find that we naturally (or purposely) follow what other people do. Maybe it’s to fit in with the people around you or to prove your self-worth. Having true Christian friends means that the encouragement and expectations around us are (presumably) proper and healthy. That being said, choosing the right friends in the first place is also something very important. A true friend encourages us, tells us when we do something wrong and heightens our joy in God.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
We need a friend to encourage and bring us back up again
In our lowest times in life, we need a friend to bring us back up. Of course, we can only find true happiness and contentment in Christ and our personal relationship with Him. But of all the pleasures we can find in this world, true friendships are probably the most treasured thing we can have.
“Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me, it is the chief happiness of life.” - C.S. Lewis (Collected Letters, 174)
“In this world two things are essential: life and friendship. Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them” - St Augustine.
Time with friends and words of affirmation might be just what we need when we are feeling down. A true friend will lend you an ear or a shoulder to lean on when things aren’t okay. A true Christian friend will remind us to seek refuge in Christ, casting our anxieties to Him (1 Peter 5:7).
We need friends to hold us accountable
As sinners, we aren’t aware or are unwilling to accept it when we are wrong. Let’s look at a real-life example, to see it from a clearer perspective.
Why do we ask other people to proofread our work or mark our test papers? Or before meeting someone important, why do we ask a close friend if there’s anything wrong with our outfit or face?
Even in simple matters like these, we need someone to look out for us - to tell us when we are wrong, and to help us up when we stumble. A healthy friendship is when you respectfully and with an honest and humble heart correct your friend when they do something wrong.
If you’re too afraid or not close enough to correct your friend, you should pray for the courage to do so. Pray for them and tell a responsible adult instead of staying silent.
We grow better in a church community
Have you ever served God together in a community of Christ-followers? If you have, you’ll understand what I mean when I say this. Being able to serve with your brothers and sisters in Christ might be one of the most joy-bringing things you can do while in this world. Not only are we finding joy in serving God, but we are doing it with other people who also love God, allowing us to grow together and learn from each others’ experiences.
In the midst of all the worldly things we face every day, having a Christian community can be what makes us feel welcomed and at home - a community where we can share our struggles with people who also love God.
Christ’s sacrifice is the best example of true friendship
Though we may have many friends, inevitably, they can also fall or bring us down with them. There is only one perfectly faithful, loving, and never-changing friend that we can have, that is, Jesus Christ Himself.
On the night before His own death, He gathered His disciples, whom He refers to as His friends, and said to them “Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). Through His death, Christ did the most heroic act of friendship, even giving His own life.
Living and loving like Christ
So, brothers and sisters, during these difficult times, I urge you to pray for your friends and your church community. Find time to check up on your friends and video-call them if need be. Together, share what you’ve learnt from the scriptures and sermons.
Remember Christ’s love for us, and live each day with Him as our example.
We’re all in this together.
“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6).