The Quality of Being a Good Friend
What do the Proverbs say about being a good friend? We can sum it all up with three words: loyalty, love, and longsuffering. Proverbs 3:3-4 says:
“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and a good reputation in the sight of God and man.”
All friendship begins with the reputation of the parties involved. Is the person worth befriending? Better question—are you worth befriending?
And here’s where a Christian worldview is going to change just about everything. We can and do enter into friendship for various reasons. Likes and dislikes, hobbies, stage of life, etc. But what we learn over time is that these things can’t and won’t sustain a friendship. Instead, what does sustain us is character.All friendship begins with the reputation of the parties involved. Is the person worth befriending? Better question—are you worth befriending? Click To Tweet
So back to our C.S. Lewis quote, love is the “steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” The character of a person who is concerned with their friend’s ultimate good is a good friend—this is a person of Godly character.
How do we develop Biblical character?
It takes careful, persistent work moment by moment and day by day. The Apostle Peter called this diligence, and we are responsible for applying it “…in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Being of good character requires diligence. It takes persistence and work. Being friendship material is a result of all of these character traits put together. So how do we supply all of these things? Proverbs 3:3 told us. “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
We have to bind them around our necks and write them on the tablet of our hearts. And don’t miss the personal responsibility message here. Solomon didn’t say God would bind kindness and truth to us. He also didn’t say God would write kindness and truth on our hearts. The Scripture does say that God will write His law on our hearts but that is an entirely different matter. Likewise, Peter didn’t assert that God would supply our faith with moral excellence and self-control.
We can hope and pray for some type of spiritual download that magically gives us the strength of character needed to be a good friend. But the truth is that we are to work for these things—again, moment by moment and day by day. This is what it means to be a good friend.We can hope and pray for some type of spiritual download that magically gives us the strength of character needed to be a good friend. But the truth is that we are to work for these things Click To Tweet
We will come back to this a little later but Galatians 6:1-3 says:
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
We may not always get this friendship thing right. We may not always be the friend we were meant to be or love in the way God has called us to love. Guess what, others won’t always get it right either. We may be hurt or betrayed, but just as God is faithful and forgiving even in the face of our mistakes, we must do the same for each other! Bearing one another’s burdens when we fall under the weight of our mistakes is what true friends do.
So, a good friend is going to be careful not to lose kindness and truth and instead bind them to their neck. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus is the model friend. Not only has he willingly bound kindness and truth as a yoke around his own neck, he’s also called us to share his yoke. He is both gentle and humble and He has invited us to this unique place of rest. There’s a line from a song I love that says, “I’ll be a safe place to land.”
Jesus’s kindness and truth is our safe place to land. This is what Proverbs 3:3 was foreshadowing. We are to bind Christ’s yoke to our necks. We are now sharing a yoke with the faithful One who is the embodiment of truth. When we take this yoke upon ourselves we will (to adapt a phrase) be the kind of friend, the friend we’re looking for, is looking for!Jesus’s kindness and truth is our safe place to land. This is what Proverbs 3:3 was foreshadowing. We are to bind Christ’s yoke to our necks. Click To Tweet
And the same is expected when writing truth and faithfulness on our hearts. Jesus taught us (Luke 6:45) that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. And Solomon said every issue of life (implying even friendship) flows from the heart (Proverbs 4:23). So what we must do in all of this is ask, what have we written on our hearts? And whatever it is, it will determine the quality of our friendship.
Passages regarding being a good friend
“Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.”
A friend doesn’t walk away when things get difficult. They walk life out together. In an ancient context, friendship didn’t come about the way it does today. They didn’t have social media. They couldn’t traverse the landscape in short order. Your friends were your neighbors. And most of the time these were multigenerational friendships. This is kind of the way it was just a short time ago in America.A friend doesn’t walk away when things get difficult. They walk life out together. Click To Tweet
In G.K. Chesterton’s work ‘Heretics’ he wrote:
“We make our friends; we make our enemies, but God makes our next-door neighbor. The old scriptural language showed so sharp a wisdom when it spoke, not of one’s duty towards humanity, but one’s duty towards one’s neighbor. The duty towards humanity may often take the form of some choice which is personal or even pleasurable. But we have to love our neighbor because he is there—a much more alarming reason for a much more serious operation. He is the sample of humanity which is actually given us.”
The reason we shouldn’t forsake a friend or friend of the family is because they are the sample of humanity that God gave to us. And the reason we’re to run to them when disaster strikes is because it affords them—and us if the tables are turned—the opportunity to grow in true friendship and love. Your family should already love you. Your aim is that your neighbor loves you too!
One of the stories that comes to mind on this multigenerational level of friendship is David to Jonathan and subsequently David to Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. (I could spend hours talking about this friendship. Simply put, David—because of his great love for Jonathan—continued caring for his friend’s family long after his friend was no longer with him. This is friendship.)
Next we look to Proverbs 17:17 here Solomon said:
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
We just learned that neighbors were the pool from which friendships were drawn in the ancient world. Now we start to see that friendship is meant to galvanize brotherhood and/or sisterhood.
Many proverbs are constructed of what are called parallelisms. What that means is that two or more things are either parallel or they are corresponding in some way. In this verse a friend and a brother are what correspond. When a friend loves without fail they become a brother born for the fierce battles of life. These are the friendships we all want in life. This is the friendship Jesus offers to us. This is the kind of friend we strive to be.
Now we have a good idea of what we need to do, and be as friends, right? In the next post, we will examine what we are looking for in others. Do you have any rules that govern how you act as a friend? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.