The Lost Art Of Friendship

by Jeannette Haley

Anyone who is a fan of the Anne of Green Gables series, as we are, is surely familiar with Anne’s longing to have a “bosom friend.” In Anne’s mind, a “bosom friend” was a person that was as her “own soul” (See Deuteronomy 13:6). Such a friend would be someone who thought, believed, and felt the same as she, and in whom she could safely confide, and share the innermost thoughts and desires of her heart without fearing reprisal. As “bosom friends,” they would never betray one another, or use each other for personal gain. Indeed, such friends would give or do anything for the benefit and well-being of the other.

The Bible gives us wonderful examples of true friendship, such as Ruth and Naomi, and David and Jonathan. Ruth’s servant heart loved Naomi so much that she left behind her family, culture, religion, and lifestyle to be with her mother-in-law. She was determined to commit her life to Naomi until death.

Likewise, Jonathan chose to be a faithful friend, and self-sacrificing servant, to David. Jonathan’s actions reveal that he had no desire to become the future king of Israel after his father, Saul, because God had chosen David. Jonathan threw himself whole-heartedly behind David, at the risk of his own life, and helped him in any way that he could. After Jonathan’s death, when David became King over Israel, he carried out his love and faithfulness to his friend by bringing Jonathan’s crippled son, Mephibosheth, into his own home where he ate at the king’s table. (Read this interesting account in 2 Samuel 9:1-13.)

Friendship is distinct from other human relationships because friendships are a matter of choice, not chance. We have noted through the years that the happiest and strongest marriage bonds are those that are rooted in years of true friendship. The beauty of a true friend is that “A friend loveth at all times,” Proverbs 17:17a. If you have such a friend, it doesn’t matter how you look, how you feel, or how many times you fall, your friend will still be there for you to love, encourage, and help you. Such a friend, who loves “at all times,” will stand by you no matter what life and circumstances throw at you.

Such a friend is a treasure. Needless to say, this brings us to the question, what kind of a friend are you? While a true friend is a blessing beyond description, having such a friend comes at a price: it takes two. Proverbs 18:24 tells us, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Thus, we are told first that in order to have friends, we must show ourselves to be friendly. One might ask, “What does it mean to ‘show yourself friendly?’ Surely it means more than flashing your very best smile at somebody.” Developing a genuine, lasting friendship is an art.

Going back in my own life over three decades ago, I remember reading this verse in Proverbs and taking it to heart, which helped me to develop many valuable and meaningful relationships. I have to admit, these special friends kept me from “going under and drowning” when my life hit major “turbulent waters” down the line. What is disturbing to me is, as I look around today at people’s relationships (or lack thereof) my conclusion is that our super “advanced” culture is fast losing the art of friendship.

Most people in the “old days” had an entirely different mindset, or viewpoint, about others, and life in general. People lived a more wholesome, innocent, and simpler life in the respect that they were closer to the land (source of food, sustenance, and reality), and were more dependent upon one another for survival. Folks used to have more in common back then such as love for God, country, and one another. They helped each other in practical ways when there was a need. Their thoughts, beliefs, and goal were purer. They weren’t distracted by all the excesses we have in our day such as countless hours of television, obsession with sports, lust for material possessions they didn’t really need, and artificial means of communication. I’m not saying that life or people were perfect back then, but the level of hate, lewdness, perversion, self-love and selfishness wasn’t to the all consuming level it is today. The “cup of iniquity is full,” and so is the cup of the wrath of God. If you aren’t convinced of that fact, just listen to the vitriol spewing forth unabashedly through the “mainstream media” (and the Internet). It’s as if the lid of hell has blown off and every foul, perverted, evil, and unclean thing has been unleashed upon the earth against anyone who is pure, innocent, loves God and His Word, loves life, loves righteousness, loves truth, loves freedom, and loves others.

Through the years as we have moved to different places, visited different churches, and met different people, we have experienced an increasing level of detachment, coldness, and disinterest when it comes to even casual friendship. Sadly, there have been those whom we have met through the years who have desired for us to betheir friends, pursue them, serve them, give to them, and make them feel good about themselves, but how can there be a genuine, lasting friendship when it is all one-sided? (Isn’t that “using and abusing?”) Obviously, our culture is shifting from close-knit relationships where friendships formed deep “roots” that consisted of character, integrity, decency, and “natural affection,” to a shallow and meaningless pseudo society of independent snobs. As Jesus put it, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” Matthew 24:12. Iniquity is moral deviation, and what could be more immoral than abortion (child murder), child molestation, child pornography, child abuse, child kidnapping, the child sex trade, and child exploitation? Of course the sewer of moral deviation is vast beyond this single category concerning children.

How does “abounding iniquity” cause people’s hearts to grow cold? When I asked Rayola to explain this, she said, “Iniquity is moral deviation from what is true, pure, and just. When iniquity abounds, it means that basically all manner or righteousness can be disposed of in the name of wicked agendas and evil ideologies. In the name of wicked agendas, decency and consideration can be done away with, and in the name of evil ideologies people can be sacrificed. It creates a cruel, despotic environment where insanity and foolishness reigns with a vengeance against anything that would dare oppose its goals.

“In such an environment people realize there is no real protection. Since these tyrannical agendas have no point of reason or accountability, individuals realize that they have no recourse in which they can stop the evil tides. Helplessness and hopelessness immerge as fear and anger take center stage. If people have no hope in which to hide, this fear and anger will cause the heart to grow cold.”

If we as the people of God, and as a nation, do not guard our hearts against this coldness and lack of love, then we are doomed, both as individuals who have forsaken the faith, and as a nation. We cannot continue to go on living as independent, self-sufficient, prideful little entities and expect to survive what is coming upon the face of the earth. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if yet have love one to another” John 13:34, 35. The only way we can do this is by having the very love of God within us. John wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” 1 John 4:7-11.

This is where the art of true friendship begins. It must be founded upon the solid Rock of Jesus Christ. Jesus desires for us to be His friends, but this is a conditional relationship based on our obedience to His commands (see John 15:13, 14). As you study these verses, you discover that the greatest love in a friendship that any person can have is when a person is willing to lay down his or her own life for his or her friend. Laying down one’s life can mean more than “taking a bullet” for your friend—it can also mean laying aside your own dreams, aspirations, and goals in order to help your friend succeed. It may mean sacrificing your lifestyle or comforts to help meet the needs your friend may have. There are many ways that a person can lay down their life for their friends. Philippians 2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”Have you practiced this in your daily life? “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” Galatians 5:14. Out of the lips of Jesus came this commandment, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” Matthew 7:12.

Developing the art of friendship is dependent on many factors, all of which can be found in Scripture. Remember, if you want to have friends, you have to be one. Here are a few guidelines in how to “show yourself friendly,” and to become the kind of friend that you would like to have. Wherever you are, whomever you meet, treat others the way you would like to be treated. Granted, this may come across as an oversimplified cliché; however, stepping up to the plate and actually putting it into practice is another matter. If we are to “do unto others” as we would have them do unto us, then we need to be sensitive and alert to where others around us are in their lives. This takes discernment, and to become discerning, you have to get past yourself first; that is, get out of your self-absorbed little world, and ask the Lord to give you discernment.

Pray that God would give you “unfeigned love” for others. That is, be real. Resist the temptation to put on a good show, come across as the “good guy,” or put up an image. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” 1 Peter 1:22. You may ask, what if I am rejected? Then you can be identified with Christ in His rejection, rejoice in doing well, and return evil with good.

In order to be a true friend, you must be genuinely humble. Romans 12:3 says, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among yu, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” The Bible tells us that God resists the proud—but so do people! We must have genuine love, and be “kindly affectioned” to others with “brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10).

Good friends are “of the same mind one toward another” and walk in agreement. They rejoice with one another, and weep with one another. (See Romans 12: 15,16; Amos 3:3, Galatians 6:2.) Truly close friends will also stimulate one another. Proverbs 27:17 declares, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” We also learn from Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” A true friend will be honest with you even when it hurts when it is for your own good.

We at GSM have been blessed with certain faithful and true friends. As we look back over the years, we think of those who have continued to love us, support us, pray for us, and encourage us in our incredible journey. On the other hand, there have been those who “sat” in our boat watching us as we struggled to “row” against contrary tides. Some folks even found an excuse to jump overboard and left, while our true friends jumped in to “bail” and “row” with us. They have stayed the course with us during those times when our “boat” rode plainly in sight on the high waves, and they remained steadfast when our boat became a “submarine” quietly working in areas that weren’t always publicly visible. They were supportive and kind when our boat sometimes hit rocky shoals, and became beached in times of sickness and need. Such friends are those who brightly shine as the stars of heaven in our memories and lives, and we thank God for every one of them.

All of us, however, who know, love, trust, and obey the LORD have one Friend who will never leave us, nor forsake us. He who was called “a friend of publicans and sinners” is the Friend that we all desperately need in these dark times. He is our forever Friend, “that sticketh closer than a brother.” After all, He took our place on an old rugged cross to purchase our redemption and open heaven’s gates to all who repent, believe, and receive Him as Lord.

Is He your best Friend today? Are you His?