Steve Damron

Seven Principles of Biblical Friendship (Part 3)

In Articles on July 12, 2017 at 1:10 pm

By way of review from the previous two articles:

  1. Be Selective (or Be Careful)
  2. Have Boundaries
  3. Give to the Friendship
  4. Require Respect
  5. Demand Honesty
  6. Be Forgiving

“He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends” (Proverbs 17:9).

This teaches us to be generous in extending the gift of forgiveness to our friends, by covering their offenses.  No friendship can last without forgiveness.  “A friendly eye is slow to see small faults,” wrote Shakespeare.  True friendship is too valuable to throw away over petty differences.  Consider two other verses that should help us in understanding this idea of forgiving and helping as a godly friend.

“An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.  A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends” (Proverbs 16:17-28).

Don’t have close association with a gossip; it will never help you in your spiritual walk.  In I Timothy 5:13 this type of person in the church is called a busybody; people who just like to be “in the know.”  The only reason that they want friends is to be up on what’s happening in someone’s life.  They also like to talk to others about everyone else’s business.  These people just want to be close to you to be close to information about you.  This is not godly friendship, and one should avoid these types of associations.  Also, we should analyze our lives and make sure that this is not a character trait in our friendship to others.  Are you friendly to people just to get the latest buzz in the church family or in some relationship near you?  This is a damaging characteristic to have as a friend.  The Bible tells us to avoid the busybodies and talebearers.

For some people, this is the biggest hang-up for getting close to someone.  Maybe they’ve been burned in the past.  Maybe someone they know has been burned.  They just don’t know if they can trust anyone.  I have experienced this in my life, but this does not mean that I resist having godly friends.  Some people see sin in the church, sin in the Christian school, or sin in families, and then say they will never go to that church, be in that school, or associate with that family.  This is a silly argument.  This world is sinful, and you are shocked that people sin?  Sin in this world will mean that sin will be in the church, in Christian schools, and in families in your church.  I need to learn to be forgiving and be a godly friend.  There will come a time that I am in sin and I need a good friend to be a help to me in overcoming that sin through godly principles.  Yes, people are sinful and can let you down, but that does not mean that you should be a recluse and not have godly friends or be a godly friend.  You can unwisely give your trust to someone who breaks it, but the critical question is whether you trust Christ to lead you to have the right friends and be the right friend to others.  If we are going to be a godly friend, we will not be  ungodly—always prying for evil in others lives or family business.  Stay away from that type of friend and find another person that you can help.  Learn the lesson from bad experience and make sure that you are not a busybody in your friendships.

  1. Work at Faithfulness

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

The heart of friendship is consistency in care and love through the ups and downs in a relationship.  The greatest test of love is sacrifice.  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  Christ being the friend of sinners sacrificed so much for his friends.  He was faithful in His relationship through the ups and downs here on this earth.  He was praised, hated, followed, forsaken, sought after for healing, sought after for killing, and on and on.  Christ shows us that faithfulness is possible in a friendship.  Consider Proverbs 19:22, “The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.”  Solomon is saying that what people really want to see in a friend is steadfastness and kindness.   When he says a poor man is better than a liar, he is saying even a faithful friend who has nothing is better than a man of wealth who says he’s faithful and then turns his back on a friend.

Finally, in the world, a policeman or the slang “cop” is someone who is just looking over your shoulder waiting for you to mess up.  We have been inundated with these types of church members and friends; we honestly do not need any more accountability “cops” in the church.  Christians have come up with some religious and sanitized ways of being a “friend,” but they really are not a faithful friend that is there in a time of trouble.  A real friend isn’t someone who merely polices your life; rather a good friend is a fellow traveler.  A real friend is someone who gets in the car with you, helps you drive within the rules of the road, travels with you through life in good times and bad, helps you look out for the potholes and construction detours, helps you find accurate directions, and helps you get to where you are going safely and in a timely fashion.  A good friend learns how to balance confrontation and compassion, persistence and patience.

 

Seven Principles of Biblical Friendship (Part 2)

In Articles on June 16, 2017 at 1:09 pm

By way of review from the previous part one article:

  1. Be Selective (or Be Careful)
  2. Have Boundaries
  3. Give to the Friendship
  4. Require Respect

“Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another:  Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:9-11).

Respect is the foundation of any good relationship.  One of the main ways we show respect is how we talk about our friends when they are not around.  In other words, don’t expect to keep friends if you gossip and backstab when they are not near you.  Friends know when to speak and when to be silent.

“An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered. When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.  By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.  He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.  A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Proverbs 11:9-13).

Look at all the verses listed above and notice the description of someone that is backbiting in a relationship.  He is a hypocrite.  We all have an understanding of a hypocrite, but  consider again a few details.  Christ called the Pharisees hypocrites.  This should remind us that religion alone does not cure the disease of the tongue.  The heart must be affected by the gospel.  Notice in verse 11 that the backbiter is considered wicked and can take down a city.  How true it is that the tongue can not just ruin a reputation, but also the cause of Christ.  The backbiter is referred to as a talebearer.  What a description of someone who wants the juicy tidbit not so that they can help in the situation, but so that they can be the center of attention!

  1. Demand Honesty

“Open rebuke is better than secret love.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”  (Proverbs 27:5-6).

Another principle closely related to respect is honesty.  Better is open rebuke than secret love.  As Oscar Wilde said, “A true friend stabs you in the front.”  Find friends who will be honest with you, even if it means wounding you with love. Flattery is a flimsy foundation for friendship (see Proverbs 28:23).

The Bible teaches to avoid the friendship that has weak accountability.  Here’s an illustration to help us visualize this concept.  Let’s say two or three friends get together to help each other become accountable with a vice in their lives.  They come together and confess their latest blunders and in essence, pat each other on the back, say everything will be okay, and go home just as unmotivated as before to really do something about their sin.  This happens over and over; they get back together the next week or month with the same sad story.  Nothing is changed.  Good friendship demands the honesty of open rebuke and faithful wounds.  Neither of these words, rebuke or wounds, are things that any of us like, but good friendship is willing to be honest to help one make the changes in their life.

In the illustrated meetings above, all the participants were looking for somewhere to dump their guilt and be free of blame for what they had done.  To use a modern catch-phrase, these participants wanted amnesty for doing wrong without owning up to the reason that they are in the mess they are in.  We should not have friends just to appease our sin and then tell us our sins are forgiven.  Of course, it isn’t a bad thing to want an affirming word.  We should be reminding one another of God’s mercy and grace as well as His forgiveness.  But a good friend is wise and knows that cheap peace or cheap grace is not a healthy or Biblical friend.  Demand honesty and frankness in your friendships.

 

Seven Principles of Biblical Friendship (Part 1)

In Articles on May 19, 2017 at 1:06 pm

“Friendship is the only thing in the world concerning the usefulness of which all mankind are agreed.”  This was written over 2000 years ago by the Roman philosopher Cicero in the first century B.C.  But while all people long for friendship, genuine friends are hard to come by.

Many factors contribute to the dearth of friendship.  The increasing mobility of our culture has made lifelong friends a rare commodity.  Even when we stay in one place for a long time, the rapid pace of life makes it difficult to carve out time for building and sustaining friendships.  Social media may help us connect with old classmates and distant relatives, but it also poses an electronic barrier to the kinds of practices most necessary to maintain deep friendship.  If we have ever needed wisdom regarding friendship, it is now.

The book of Proverbs provides such wisdom and many good helps for developing different aspects of our lives.  Here is a list   of seven principles for Biblical friendship.

  1. Be Selective (or Be Careful)

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).

First is the principle of selectivity.  This proverb reminds me that everyone cannot and should not be a close friend.  Quality trumps quantity, when it comes to friendship.  Select your friends wisely and then stick to them.   Proverbs 18:24 tells us that we should have friends that we can count on.  Many use that verse to reference Christ (and I believe that is a good analogy), but this verse also refers to having a few folks that you can get wise counsel from to weather the storms in life.  We should select friendships carefully because wrong friends bring harm.  Notice that Proverbs 13 uses the word “walketh.”  In the Bible, walking many times has an application of direction.  For instance, we should not walk with the ungodly.  We need God to help us “walk” in righteousness.  This is true of character both noble and base.   “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:  lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25; see also 12:26 and 16:29).

  1. Have Boundaries

“Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee” (Proverbs 25:17).

Proverbs teaches the principle of boundaries.  Remember that friends are not your family.  There should be some purposeful distance sometimes between one and his friends.  Good friends who are wise can be very valuable, but each can wear the other out by constant talking, nagging, and being together.  In youth, this is seen repeatedly.  The clinging on to one specific friend, or the inseparability of some groups until one of them realizes that they are starting to despise the other, are examples of this.  Create some space ahead of time and have some boundaries.  Know when to leave a friend alone.  Different people have different capacities for friendship and various friendships have different limitations.  Learn when to give your friends space.  Benjamin Franklin once made this statement, “Guests, like fish, stink after three days.” Don’t wear out your welcome!

  1. Give to the Friendship

“Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (Proverbs 27:9).

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17).

One of the most important principles is the principle of giving. Friendship is a two-way street.  In any true friendship, both persons contribute and both are in the business of adding to each other.  To have a friend, you must be a friend.  “Iron sharpeneth iron” and giving “hearty counsel” both illustrate two kinds of mutuality: sweet and sharp.

Sweetness arises from shared interests and the sharing of common ground.  This is essential to any real friendship and is always present.  Almost all friendships are based on something such as a similar taste in books, music, or entertainment; love for the same sport or hobby; similar life circumstances; the same vocation; a shared belief in God; and so on.  Friendships do not have to include all of these things together, but deep friendship is built on some common ground.  The more that one has in common with someone, the more “sweetness” there is to the friendship.

On the other hand, there is a sharpening aspect to a good friendship.  “Iron sharpeneth iron.”  Good friends are the ones who not only share interests, but they challenge one another in meaningful ways by expanding one’s thinking and interests, balancing weaknesses, and helping one to pursue a better character.