“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17
Friendship – Loyalty, Love, Longsuffering
We’ve been giving our attention to the Proverbs and particularly what they teach concerning friendship. We’ve already covered two crucial ideas, the first being what it looks like to be a good friend and the second being what we are looking for in good friends. Of course these attributes overlap in every way, but to the first we saw that being a good friend demands a life marked by loyalty, love, and longsuffering. To the second, the friend we’re looking for is to be wise, temperate, righteous (in the correct sense)—we are not looking for perfect people but instead those who are submitted to King Jesus.
This led us to look at the greatest display of friendship the world has ever known:
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13
The point of this—no greater love has anyone than this—is that Jesus laid down His life to make us His friends!
I believe C.S. Lewis captured the love aspect of friendship well when he said:
“Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”
In this series, we’ll take another step forward by seeing what friendship looks like in action. We’ve looked at it in theory, but now we’re going to see how it plays out. With that we will examine some threats that can ruin a friendship. This final section is extremely important to me and I hope my words will offer valuable insight into how we ought to love people—friend or not!
What Friendship looks like in Action
“The poor is hated even by his neighbor, but those who love the rich are many. One who despises his neighbor sins, but one who is gracious to the poor is blessed.” – Proverbs 14:20-21 NASB
In our discussion on friendship we’ve already connected a few important people groups. Remember, in the ancient context neighbors were the pool from which friends were drawn—so neighbor and friend are implicitly connected. We also learned that friendships were multigenerational (not forsaking a friend of your family) and that a friend was and is intended to become a brother or sister in arms. So now what we have is actually a neighbor—a multigenerational friend who is ‘born’ to help us face adversity.
No doubt this is why friendship is and always will be so important. This is also why I stress the dangers of Lone Ranger Christianity. We are not and never will be in this fight alone and if we try to face life alone there will be no one to help when the battle gets really tough.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Today we’ll see that this “sample of humanity given us by God,” our neighbor, as G.K. Chesterton pointed out, is also to be loved impartially. That is to say that our neighbor/friend/brother is to be loved regardless of any status they have, no more and no less. And before anyone worries, this isn’t some modern day social justice nonsense. I’m not presenting a political platform here. We’re talking about genuine, Biblical, God-ordained care for all and especially ‘the least of these.’
So again to recap, the Scripture not only connects a friend with a neighbor, who ultimately becomes a brother or sister in arms, but all of this is to happen regardless of their position in life. This sets the stage for what friendship looks like in action.
One of the best stories to show this is one we’re all familiar with—the Good Samaritan. In it we see loyalty, love, and longsuffering, but also wisdom, temperance, and righteousness.
Luke 10:25-37 is where we start:
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply, Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
As we’ve discovered, friendship is closely connected with being a good neighbor. Jesus taught that being a good neighbor requires mercy. Step one in friendship in action is to be merciful. Why? Because we ourselves are the products of mercy. Operating in mercy is loyalty, not only to the one in need but also to the standard by which we live. As products of mercy we must display that very same kindness to others.
All too often we look just like the lawyer in this story. We seek to justify ourselves, and by this I mean that we find ways to withhold mercy from others. Maybe it’s an inconvenience, maybe it’s costly, maybe it’s just pride. Whatever the case, when we fail to give mercy, we fail at being a true friend. I would also say, if we’re trying to justify ourselves with respect to our action (or even inaction toward others), we’re already not good friend material.
Obviously we see what friendship in action looks like from observing the Samaritan. Here’s the loyalty, love, and longsuffering. Loyalty to doing good and showing mercy. Loving others as more important than oneself. And longsuffering, or patience enough to see our neighbor’s good through to the end.
A brief note here regarding patience: Most of us think of patience as putting up with annoyances. But patience is also persistence in prayer. Patience is waiting until people see the light of the Gospel. Patience is waiting on the front porch for the prodigal. Patience is wanting that none should perish, so you repeatedly offer mercy and kindness to woo them to repentance.Patience is waiting on the front porch for the prodigal. Patience is wanting that none should perish, so you repeatedly offer mercy and kindness to woo them to repentance. Click To Tweet
In this parable Jesus is essentially showing us the same friendship in action that Solomon taught centuries before. Proverbs 3:27-28 says:
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, (I love this because it is due…) when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” When you have it with you.”
The brother of Jesus picks this up in James 2:14-16:
“What use is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”
These Scriptures warn against the first two characters in the Good Samaritan story. They withheld the good they knew to do. But not the Samaritan. He was a true friend who gave all he had in his power to give. Even beyond that, he promised to come back with more money should what he gave not cover his neighbor’s needs. This is love. “love… does not seek its own.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) The first two characters avoid the man on the road but the Samaritan thinks of others as more important than himself. This is how we’re to respond to the needs of our neighbors, our friends, our brothers, and sisters.
Another note on Proverbs 3:27-28: we are not to withhold when it is within our power to provide. But what about when it is outside our power? There will be times when we simply cannot physically, emotionally, or spiritually provide for every need in front of us. This is where the yoke I spoke about last week becomes even more important.
Not only have we taken on the yoke of our King, but we share that yoke with an entire brother/sisterhood of believers. Remember again Chesterton’s quote, “Our neighbor is the sample of humanity given to us.” Thus even our neighbor’s needs have been given to us, and our brothers and sisters in Christ have also been given to us to share the burden of those needs.
According to Galatians 6:2 our brothers and sister bear our burdens with us. We are not supermen and superwomen, living life in a silo of pretend strength. We are interdependent on each other. We are to rely on each other to walk through life. When meeting someone’s need is outside our power, we have only to turn to a fellow Christian to find help.We are not supermen and superwomen, living life in a silo of pretend strength. We are interdependent on each other. We are to rely on each other to walk through life. Click To Tweet
By the way, in regard to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we really should take a moment to understand their God ordained priority. Galatians 6:10 says:
“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”
The first part of this verse parallels Jesus’s point within the Good Samaritan. We are to do good to all people. Anyone who has a need is our neighbor. And this shows that it’s possible and necessary to befriend those outside the faith.
But let’s focus on the second part—“especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Why especially Christians?
Have you ever been on an airplane as the flight attendant reviews the emergency instructions? For every seat there is an oxygen mask. The rule is that you must apply the mask to yourself before you help the person next to you. In the crashing plane that seems to be our world, we have to pay attention first to the members of our own body before we can save anyone else. “Especially the household of faith.” We need to be reliable. This is why Proverbs 18:24 says:
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
The Church needs to be reliable in this idea of friendship—doing good to the household of faith first is a blessing to the world at large. Friendship in action means that although blood may be thicker than water, a trusted, faithful friend is thicker than all!Friendship in action means that although blood may be thicker than water, a trusted, faithful friend is thicker than all! Click To Tweet
In the Good Samaritan story we all the qualities of a good friend: loyalty, love, longsuffering, wisdom (knowing how to help), and true righteousness. Has there been a time this type of friendship was modeled to you? Comment below or email me at nathanfranckhauser.com.