True Friendship - Recognition
How can we find true friendship in this often phony, temporary world? Friendship involves recognition or familiarity with another's personality. Friends often share likes and dislikes, interests, pursuits, and passion.
How can we recognize potential friendship? Signs include a mutual desire for companionship and perhaps a common bond of some kind. Beyond that, genuine friendship involves a shared sense of caring and concern, a desire to see one another grow and develop, and a hope for each other to succeed in all aspects of life. True friendship involves action: doing something for someone else while expecting nothing in return; sharing thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or negative criticism.
True Friendship - Relationship, Trust, Accountability
True friendship involves relationship. Those mutual attributes we mentioned above become the foundation in which recognition transpires into relationship. Many people say, "Oh, he's a good friend of mine," yet they never take time to spend time with that "good friend." Friendship takes time: time to get to know each other, time to build shared memories, time to invest in each other's growth.
Trust is essential to true friendship. We all need someone with whom we can share our lives, thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. We need to be able to share our deepest secrets with someone, without worrying that those secrets will end up on the Internet the next day! Failing to be trustworthy with those intimate secrets can destroy a friendship in a hurry. Faithfulness and loyalty are key to true friendship. Without them, we often feel betrayed, left out, and lonely. In true friendship, there is no backbiting, no negative thoughts, no turning away.
True friendship requires certain accountability factors. Real friends encourage one another and forgive one another where there has been an offense. Genuine friendship supports during times of struggle. Friends are dependable. In true friendship, unconditional love develops. We love our friends no matter what and we always want the best for our friends.
True Friendship - Examples of Real Friendship
True friendship stories are found throughout the Bible. In Genesis 18:17-33, we read about God sharing His intentions with Abraham. Abraham responds by telling God his thoughts and feelings about the situation. God and Abraham are able to do this because they trust and respect each other.
First Samuel 20 focuses on the friendship of David and Jonathan. These two men truly cared for each other and had great trust and confidence in one another. David was running for his life from Jonathan's father, Saul. Jonathan recognized that David was innocent. Because of the true friendship they shared, David survived Saul's assassination attempts and went on to become one of Israel's greatest kings.
Real and true friendship involves freedom of choice, accountability, truth, and forgiveness. Peter and Jesus give us this example: Peter, afraid for his life after Jesus is led away from the Garden of Gethsemane, denies knowing Jesus (John 18). As He is led away by His accusers, Jesus casts a look toward Peter that says, "I knew you would deny Me, and I forgive you" (John 21).
Real friendship looks at the heart, not just the "packaging." Genuine friendship loves for love's sake, not just for what it can get in return. True friendship is both challenging and exciting. It risks, it overlooks faults, and it loves unconditionally, but it also involves being truthful, even though it may hurt. Genuine friendship, also called "agape" love, comes from the Lord. The Lord Jesus calls us His friends and He laid down His life for us (John 15).
Relationships in real life involve different levels of friendships, and that's okay. But humans are designed by God for lasting relationships. Often our isolationist society offers only vague, empty relationships. God wants us to have friends here on earth. Most of all, He wants us to be friends with Him!
God's Word tells us that a friend sticks closer than a brother, and that in order for one to be a friend, one must show themselves friendly (Proverbs 18:24). The question is: what type of friend do you desire to be?
Proverbs 18:19 in the New Living Translation says: "It's harder to make amends with an offended friend than to capture a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars." When we've offended a true friend - whether by breaking a trust or by speaking the truth with love - we risk losing that friendship. We must be careful not to break the trust. But when not speaking the truth will cause greater hurt in our friend's life, we must be willing to sacrifice our needs for those of our friend. That is true friendship.
If we sometimes offend a friend without meaning to, God's Word offers a solution. It's called forgiveness. There is no greater example than the love of God for us. It so great that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, in order that our friendship with God might be restored. He did that in spite of the fact that we have offended Him deeply. We have disobeyed His commands, turned our backs on Him, and followed our own path. So the question remains: What type of friend do you want to be? True Christian friendship forgives.
Do you need a friend? God wants to be your true friend. Are you longing for companionship? God is always with you (Hebrews 13:5). Who do you know who needs a true friend today? God wants you to befriend others. He calls us to be His hands and feet in a world starving for true friendship.