Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

—1 Thessalonians 5:11

American journalist, author, and photographer Jon Katz wrote, “I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”

Each one of us longs to be connected. We can achieve that through our friends. The theme of friendship weaves throughout the Bible, with Jesus promising to be our eternal friend because He is with us always. Jesus is there to be our friend and to listen to our needs. Some Christians may hesitate to call Jesus a friend, but Jesus has never been hesitant about considering us His friend. It matters to Him that we embrace this. He invites us to understand our relationship in terms of friendship. Jesus gives all who trust Him the privilege of being His friends. In John 15:14–15, Jesus says, “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.”

Growing up, one of my favorite hymns was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” The first verse says:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Similarly, I love the song “The Lily of the Valley.” Its first verse says:

I have found a friend in Jesus-
He’s ev’rything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley- in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay,
He tells me ev’ry care on Him to roll;
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the greatest of ten thousand to my soul.

How wonderful it is that we have a true friend in Jesus! I hope most of us are fortunate to also have true friends in our lives here on earth. I have had a few great friends in my life. Some I speak to almost every day. Others I speak to a few times a week. Then there are those I speak to less frequently, but I know that I can count on them when I need them the most. There are also those who are no longer with us, but I know that they are with my heavenly friend, Jesus.

Not only does the Bible describe how Jesus is our friend, but it also gives us the practical wisdom we need to cultivate friendships well. From the moment God created man, He knew man should not be alone. Throughout the creation of the universe, God said that everything was “good.” But then once he created Adam, he doesn’t say “it was good.” Instead, He says, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” God realized that Adam was not yet complete; he needed a community. Humanity’s first problem was social isolation. Even today, in a world filled with society, Proverbs 18:1 warns that “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.”

Proverbs gives us wisdom for navigating the complexities of our relationships. And it doesn’t just address relationships in general, but also friendships. For example, it teaches us what to look for in finding true friends. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” Likewise, Proverbs 22:24-25 warns us, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.” God shows us why loyalty is so important for cultivating friendship. First Peter 4:8-10 says, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

Invariably, we meet people who we think are friends, but who are really there merely to use and manipulate us. They are not true friends, but sometimes, this is hard to spot before it’s too late. We have something that others want, so they offer their friendship until they get the whatever it is that they want, then, if we are lucky, they leave and we learn a lesson. Proverbs 19:6 tells us, “Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.” False and transactional friendships can make finding true friends difficult, but if we follow God’s advice, we can find those true friendships. But the Bible shows us that real friendship is more of an agreement than an obligation. Proverbs 18:24 teaches us that “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Proverbs 27:10 commands us, “Do not forsake your friend.” Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Our greatest joy is found in our fellowship with God and one another. The theologian Jonathan Edwards said that friendship is “the highest happiness of moral agents.” According to the Bible, our chief happiness is in fellowship with God and all who trust Him. God’s guidance gives us everything we need to recover a greater vision of true friendship. It shows us even our feeblest efforts at forging friendships echo a more glorious reality—every friendship is a small and imperfect echo of God, who made us in His image to enjoy friendship forever. Friendship didn’t come from us; it came from God. And he gives us everything we need—through His word and his Spirit—to cultivate it well.

Be ever thankful for your true friends. A true friend will be there when you need them, and likewise, you will be there when they need you. Nothing on this earth is more important than our friendships. If you are lucky enough to have a romantic partner, husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, in this life, I hope that they are your best friend. There is no greater love than that of friendship.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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