Mankind is made in God’s image, so mankind is made for friendship. God is Triune, in perfect community within Himself. Additionally, God is relational with us. He relates. He made us to relate. He made us for friendship.
When God created the first man he said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). This has something to do with marriage, but it also has much to say about friendship. We aren’t called to live solitary lives, disconnected from others. We need, indeed we are made for, friendship.
Still, this is easier said than done. Facebook might say you have 798 friends, but do you? In reality, good friends are hard to come by. You may only have a handful. You might only have one.
We must know we need them. And they need us. We must long to be a good friend, and to select good friends. We must believe that “a man who isolates himself…rages against all wise judgment” (Proverbs 18:1). Some try to avoid friendship, but this is not helpful — isolation is unhealthy.
I cannot imagine enduring the various seasons of life without friendship. My years as a single man were aided by healthy friends who poured into my life as I poured into theirs. If I’d had the wrong friends during that season disaster was certain. Instead, my friends encouraged me in my walk with God. I am so glad they did. Everything I’ve done in life — ministry, school, marriage, family — has been aided by good friendships.
The Proverbs speak on friendship. From them, I would like to draw a few wise concepts on friendship.
Before I do, it seems helpful to define friendship. You might have mentors; they are not friends, at least not for the purposes of this article. You might be a mentor; you are not primarily their friend. It seems to me a true friend is someone you choose, and who chooses you. Additionally, a true friend is normally a peer, someone in a similar life stage as you. Here, I use this definition for a friend; a friend is a mutually chosen peer you spend time with.
“One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26).
Wicked friends, according to the Proverb, lead a person astray. It stands to reason then, good friends will lead you on God’s path.
For some reason, unhealthy, defiant behavior is sometimes attractive to us. We are enticed by people who live on the edge. When we choose friends like this, they lead us in their ways.
For this reason, this proverb instructs us to choose our friends wisely. We must be cautious in our selection. Don’t just fall into a friendship, think about the decision. Will this person lead me wisely? Will their life lead me astray?
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
When friends get together they shape one another. Like iron sharpening iron through contact, friends shape one another. I want to have friends who will make me sharper, better.
Good friends provide each other a safe place to discuss life in a constructive way. A complete stranger might have a corrective word for you, but when it comes from a friend it is more helpful.
But this shaping doesn’t happen only through discussion, confrontation, or suggestion. This shaping doesn’t happen only through words. This shaping happens through life together. As I watch you and you watch me, we sharpen each other. We become better by living life as friends.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).
You ought not be the only one speaking into your life. If you are your only counselor, you will probably go astray.
But how can you receive good counsel? A good counselor knows you. They see your heart, but also watch your life. A good friend will give you perspective and counsel you couldn't have had alone. When you invite this into your life great change and help will occur.
Friends are Trustworthy.
“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).
Since friendships are built on trust, lies and slander will kill a friendship. When trust is broken through dishonesty or gossip, the friendships stalls or breaks completely. You cannot move forward without trust.
In finding friends, or being a friend, be trustworthy. Keep your friends life to yourself. Don’t separate the friendship through lies or slander.
As an addendum, here are some Proverbs that warn us about the type of friends we choose. Obviously, we will see these elements in our own hearts. We will work hard to love people who demonstrate even the worst of these attributes. But for trusted friendship, these verses serve as a caution.
Angry people — “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man” (Proverbs 22:24).
Easily offended, bitter, hot tempered people are hard to befriend. Their animosity will be aimed at you eventually.
Out of control people — “The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.” (Proverbs 28:7, ESV)
People who live their lives ruled by their bodily appetites make poor friends. They lack insight. “Their god is their belly” (Philippians 3:19). They cannot yet see the long result of sin.
Disrespectful people — “Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, 'That is no transgression,' is a companion to a man who destroys” (Proverbs 28:24).
People who dishonor their parents by robbing from them (or mooching off them) are not good friends. If dishonor flows from their lives towards parents, eventually dishonor will flow towards their friends. I’ve heard women counseled to watch the way a man treats his mother. If you marry, that is how he might treat you. Word.
Sexually loose people — “He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth” (Proverbs 29:3).
People who live a sexually loose lifestyle are not ideal for friendship. Eventually, their life will affect yours. They are living only for now, so they are squandering their future. Do the future you a favor, continue the conversation, but be cautious around friends who have rejected God’s sex ethic.