Godly Friendships – A Lesson for Everyone
Dear BPCWAians, In December 2018, we conducted a Holiday Bible Program which was on the theme “Godly Friendships”. Over 3 days, we taught the lessons on the “Purpose of friendships”, the “Basis of godly friendships”, and also warned about the “Danger of ungodly friendships”. These topics are certainly relevant not just to the students but to all adults too. Hence I felt it is crucial that I at least highlight some lessons taught so that we can all learn together regarding having godly friendships. Very often, whether as children or as adults, we choose friends simply on the basis that they are people that we find fun to be around, that we find easy to talk to, and that we like to hang out with. As we understand more about friendships from God’s Word, I hope that both adults and children in BPCWA will truly have godly friendships. The purpose of reviewing these lessons is so that you too, can look at your own friendships and examine them under the scrutiny of God’s Word. To the adult and to the child, the question is do you have godly friendships? We begin this week with looking at the purpose of godly friendships.
The influence of friendships. Friends, especially close friends, are people that we tend to spend a lot of time with. That being the case, close friends are likely to have a significant effect on how we spend our time and what we do. Moreover, we will be listening to them talk about what they think about, what they believe, what they like, what they dislike. This influences us and our values, consciously or unconsciously. If we are truly righteous and the conversations are ungodly and covetous, we will be vexed with their filthy conversation (2 Pet 2:7). If so, why then should we continue to have close friendships with such ones? But if we are not vexed with such conversations, then could it be that we are indeed beginning to think and talk like the world, so that there is no difference in values between them and us? After all, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). As believers, we should be clear about the purpose of friendships, and hence be careful to choose close friends who are godly. Otherwise we will end up imbibing ungodly ways and carnal principles through our friendships.
Purpose of friendships. God’s Word affirms, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” (Prov 27:17). Friends help each other improve in our thinking which in turn impacts our character and choices. But friendships are not just to make us better people, because if so, we become friends to each other for carnal reasons. Ultimately, godly friends must sharpen us for God’s use. The most famous account of friendship in the Bible is that of Jonathan and David, where Jonathan, the heir apparent to King Saul, makes a covenant of friendship with David who was the “new kid on the block” (1 Sam 18:1-5). There was clearly a particular closeness between Jonathan and David, something that we may perhaps see as they simply “cliqued” and became good friends. However, unlike most of our friendships, this was not a hasty decision without careful evaluation. It was only after a period of observation wherein David had proven himself to be a godly youth that the older Jonathan acted. Unlike his father King Saul, Jonathan did not immediately shower David with overt gestures of affection when the latter was called to play the harp to King Saul when he was troubled with an evil spirit. Unlike how the world typically chooses friends, Jonathan wasn’t attracted to David by his talents, ability to help someone in trouble, or even military prowess in killing the giant Goliath. Most people want to be best friends with the gifted student, person in power, the rich, the powerful, the popular, and the famous. This is because the world has different purposes regarding friendships compared to the Biblical purposes. To the world, friendships are all about me – can my friend help me to get forward in life? Or perhaps, often, I want friends just simply so that I won’t be alone or so I can belong to a group. They serve nothing better than just so that there’s someone that can “partner” me and be my shadow. This is an incomplete picture of close friendships. To the young, friends are just the fun people to be around, who will play games with me. Certainly, we are not saying that we can’t play with unbelievers. But if this is the only picture of friendship that we know and that we teach our children, then we will gravitate to any friendship, regardless of who they are and what they are like.
Jonathan, a soldier himself (1 Sam 14), would have been aware of David’s conquest of the Philistine giant. And he would have known that David fought courageously because David fought for God against the jeering Goliath. Despite possibly being able to have “friends” of anyone that he may choose to be close to as the son of the king, Jonathan was careful before he made close friends. Jonathan, a godly man, would choose to be close friends with one whom he had observed to be a faithful follower of God. Such friends encourage us to do and follow God’s will in our lives. They rebuke us when we stray from God and help us back on the right path again. Their support is in the Lord. They will actively help and encourage us to fulfil God’s purpose for us. These are the Biblical reasons why God intends us to have friends – so that they stir us toward God in obedience to Him. And it must be mutual so you too must fulfil these Biblical purposes to a friend.
Yours in our Lord’s service