Consider our relationship with God. “… Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Ja 4:4 NKJV). “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:14, 15 NKJV). Submission to God with open communication is fundamental to a successful relationship with God. It should not surprise us that the same conditions define success in our earthly relationships.
The desire for friendship is fundamental to our being. Consider Adam who at first did not have a suitable companion. God created woman to complement and complete the man spiritually, physically and emotionally. This “oneness” was the foundation for a lifetime of intimacy (Ge 2:18-24). When any aspect of our being is out of balance then we do not function to our full potential. The imbalance impacts all our relationships. As with all the roles in our lives, God defines the boundaries and conditions.
It is said that women crave intimacy most while men crave respect. Most men, including me, fail miserably to provide the companionship God designed us to provide. Cherishing our spouse as God intended is illustrated by the complete sacrifice Christ made for the church. It is with the example of Christ that men learn humility and servitude (Eph 5:25). Man must humble himself to God so that his spiritual life is in balance. Sacrificing our wants, the things that we crave, to provide the needs of our spouse ultimately fills our physical and emotional needs. The power of God to bless our relationships has no apparent limit when we submit to others!
“The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Pr 12:26 NKJV). David lived this principle of making careful choices. “I am a companion of all who fear You, And of those who keep Your precepts” (Ps 119:63 NKJV). “He who loves purity of heart And has grace on his lips, The king will be his friend” (Pr 22:11 NKJV). David and Jonathon shared a depth of friendship that exceeded most earthly relationships. Jonathon defied his father, King Saul, and risked his life to preserve his friend. David honored the friendship until his death (1Sa 18, 19).
Ruth, recently widowed, refused to leave Naomi. Ruth willingly left her home and family to care for the mother-in-law she had come to love (Ru 1:16, 17). She remarried into Naomi’s family and thus preserved Naomi’s livelihood and heritage (Ru 4:10-22). Abraham took orphaned Lot into his home after the death of Abraham’s brother (Ge 12:4). He cared for him and deferred to his wishes when Lot was grown (Ge 13:8, 9). Abraham rescued Lot from captivity and restored his family and goods (Ge 14:16). Finally, Abraham pleaded with God to spare Lot’s home city Sodom for the sake of the righteous (Ge 18:23-25). Job’s friends had good intentions. They sat in silence for days respecting the depth of Job’s suffering (Job 2:11-13). However, their eventual counsel wearied Job rather than comforted him (Job 13:1-5). Their failure to understand the source of suffering limited the good they could have accomplished for Job.
The benefits of earthly friendship are numerous. Friends provide hearty counsel and cheer us up (Pr 27:9). Friends pick us up when we fall (Eccl 4:10). They share our successes and our sorrows (Lk 15:9; Ro 12:15). Friends are there for us when family is far away (Pr 27:10). Friends make us better by challenging us. “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Pr 27:17). As painful as it can be, honest and loving rebuke, is a sign of a healthy relationship. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Pr 27:6).
It takes effort to cultivate true friendship. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly …” (Pr 18:24). “A friend loves at all times …” (Pr 17:17). A friend covers transgressions by addressing them in a loving and scriptural manner (Pr 17:9; Gal 6:1). Godly friends make every effort to preserve the friendship (Pr 27:10). Godly friends understand that preserving a relationship with God supersedes their own benefits from the friendship.
However, even the strongest of friendships can be easily severed. Gossip and betrayal of trust can separate the best of friends (Pr 16:28; Pr 17:9). Social differences also create barriers (Pr 19:4, 7). The most tragic separations are those in which the righteous are perceived as the enemy. Paul made tremendous effort to share the gospel with the Galatians. They became close as brethren. Now warning them of false doctrine He asks, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal 4:16 NKJV)
The ultimate friendship is friendship with the Lord. The Lord demonstrated ultimate love. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Joh 15:13 NKJV). Abraham enjoyed the privilege of friendship with God. ”And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God” Jas 2:23 NKJV). Does this describe our relationship with God?
Sharing friendship with the Lord has its difficulties. Those difficulties were meant to be shared with God’s people. This was true of the Hebrews. They were “made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and “became companions of those who were so treated” (He 10:33 NKJV). John who described himself as “the one whom Jesus loved” was also “brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Re 1:9).
The best way to preserve our earthly friendships is to strengthen and preserve our relationship with God. With spiritual balance secure we can make, mend and strengthen the earthly relationships that enable us to maintain our relationship with God and bless our existence here.
Ken Fleeman (2018-12-09)