While doing a study on accountability I came across a few articles about the seriousness of friendship, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
We tend to use the word “friend” quite carelessly. Any person we have a few conversations with, work with, or “like” on Facebook we call “friend.” This is not necessarily bad, but through it, I believe, we are losing the real meaning of Biblical friendship.
“To become another's friend in the true sense—is to take the other into such close, living fellowship, that his life and ours are knit together as one. It is far more than a pleasant companionship in bright, sunny hours. A genuine friendship—is entirely unselfish. It seeks no benefit or good of its own. It does not love—for what it may receive—but for what it may give. Its aim is "not to be served—but to serve" (Mark 10:45).” J.R. Miller
Do you know how your “friends” are doing? How their hearts are? The spiritual condition of their soul? If we have no idea how our “friend” is doing in their walk with God, what difficult times they are going through, or the sins they struggling with, we have a superficial acquaintance, not a friendship. Maybe friendships are in low supply these days because of the cost of being a friend. Let’s take a moment to count the cost of friendship.
1. It costs personal convenience
We often think of friendship as hanging out and having fun. And that’s a part of it. But the test of our love comes when our friend wants to do something, or needs something from us, that is not so fun. This is when we must be willing to put our personal preferences aside and value others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). Maybe they are going through a hard season and they need us to listen. Perhaps they need a favor that we find difficult to do. Friendship can be a personal inconvenience, but when we call someone friend we are agreeing, as Miller says, to partner with them in life, "for better or for worse”.
2. It costs time
We are made for community. God clearly stated that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18). This was true before the fall and it is even more true today. But companionship takes time. You cannot expect a truly meaningful friendship without putting in the time. I tend to be a homebody so this is something that I am convicted of and need to work on. But unless two or more are actually together it is hard to know and serve one another. Even when friends maintain a long-distance friendship, it has typically been built on a lengthy period of investment in one another’s lives.
3. It costs intimacy
What drew you to your friend? Was it their humor or cleverness? Did you admire their creativity and love for family? Maybe you were attracted to their kindness and service, or their organizational skills, or some other common interest. At first we only see the good sides of our friends. But if this is all we see then we will have a very shallow friendship. Everyone has a dark side. Sin is the great equalizer and our common enemy. Friendship is designed for growth in godliness and this means helping each other identify and fight sin together (Eccl. 4:9-12). But to do this you need to know their heart and they need to know yours. There needs to be a willingness to open up our lives and hearts and let others see in. We need to share the good, the bad and the ugly. Intimacy must be a part of friendships, and it has to go both ways.
4. It costs comfort
Friendship is easy and fun when it is filled with laughter and everyone is sipping lattes and getting along, but what happens when storms roll into this friendship? What are we to do when we disagree? How should we handle harsh words that were thoughtlessly spoken? Feeling hurt is a natural response and so is the temptation to turn bitter and walk way. This is the easy and selfish response. True friendship on the other hand forgives and seeks restoration and moves forward together. This is probably the most difficult part of being a true friend.
It is a sacred thing, therefore, to take a new friend into our lives. We accept a solemn responsibility when we do so. We do not know what burdens we may be assuming, what sacrifices we may, unconsciously, be pledging ourselves to make, what sorrows may come to us through the one to whom we are opening our heart. We should choose our friends, therefore, thoughtfully, wisely, prayerfully—but when we have pledged our love, we should be faithful, whatever the cost may be!”
5. It costs prayer
Friends pray for each other. If you do not pray for them you are not a true friend. A hard word, isn’t it? Prayer is one of the means by which God acts. How can we not lift the people we say we love up in prayer, interceding on their behalf for healing, wisdom, provision and holiness? Real friends don’t just pray for each other, but they do so frequently. They understand each other’s needs and then boldly approach the throne of Grace and plead for each other.
6. It costs love
Sin will make itself known the more time we spend with our friends. It will come out in our lives and in theirs. No matter what ugliness we find in our friends we must continue to love. We will, at times, find them to be inconsiderate and weak—just as they will sometimes find us. Sometimes unkindness and selfishness will emerge. When God calls us to befriend one another he calls us to love and forgive each other in the midst of sin committed against each other. This price is so high that we cannot pay it on our own. We need Christ’s power in us to do it.
“As He loves us—He would have us love others. We say men are not worthy of such friendships. True, they are not. Neither are we worthy of Christ's wondrous love for us. But Christ loves us—not according to our worthiness—but according to the riches of His own loving heart! So should it be with our giving of friendship—not as the person deserves—but after the measure of our own character.”-J.R. Miller
Friendship is costly, but it is worth it. Friendship is a gift of God that he has first modeled for us in the gospel.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.”
Jesus, the friend of sinners, died for us that we might become the friends of God. It is only as we learn from our Savior that we can discover and develop true friendships.
Jen Thorn lives in Illinois where she serves alongside her husband, Joe, at Redeemer Fellowship. She loves studying theology, reading the Puritans, and has a passion for all things chocolate. Jen has 4 children and blogs at jenthorn.com as well as lovegodgreatly.com. Follow her on Twitter@jenlthorn or on Facebook: Jen Thorn