I once read a quote that said something like “If a person comes to the end of his life having just one true friend, he is in the minority.” I believe that is true. The art of friendship is a lost art. In a society in which we measure ourselves by the number of social networking “friends” we have, the art of making, interacting with, and keeping flesh and blood friends seems to have gone the way of Friendster. People don’t seem to know how to do friendship anymore.
Friendship is indeed a lost art.
Friendship is serious business. It’s hard. It’s draining. It’s time consuming. But, it’s infinitely rewarding if done right. God did not make us to be solitary creatures. He made us social creatures who are just imperfect enough that we have to rely on one another, as evidenced by the several “one another” passages in the New Testament. He made us to be friends.
With this in mind, I wanted to share several quick thoughts I have on friendship. (I’m certain these are not original to me.) Also, show some grace and keep in mind this blog was written by a guy who is not the posterboy for iron-clad friendships.
Friends strengthen. Sure, there are times when a friend may veer into “frienemy” mode and hurt us, but a true friend seeks to build you up and never tear you down. This doesn’t mean he/she won’t have to burst your balloon so you can fall back to earth (Proverbs 27:6). A true friend wants to make you better, stronger, and sharper (Proverbs 27:17). A friend will never entice you to sin or compromise your testimony before God and others.
Friends don’t stipulate. In other words, friends love you without conditions. Again, this is not to say he or she will never disappoint you or hurt you, but a true friend loves you unconditionally. They accept you as you are, with all the baggage, warts, scrapes, and bad breath you bring. I believe unconditional friendship reflects the very character of God (Romans 5:8). Even when we were at our worst, God chose to love us without condition.
Which brings us to:
Friendship is sacrificial. We live in a “gimme” world. Everyone takes, few give. Few will sacrifice. But Jesus reminded his disciples that love should be sacrificial, even to the point of literally dying for one another (John 15:13). Loyalty in our day is often questionable. But in God’s kingdom, it is non-negotiable. That doesn’t mean we should ever lie, cover up, or dismiss wrongdoings. We should never! It simply means that we should be willing to place the best interests and welfare of our friends over that of our own.
Friendship must have healthy boundaries. Unfortunately, when friendships crumble, it can often be traced to a lack of healthy boundaries. Problems arise when we allow a friendship to come between us and our spouses, children, or relationship with God. It will never come between other healthy friendships. This does not mean that friends can’t be very close, but too close is too close! This is especially true when we have friends of the opposite sex and even more true of married friends of the opposite sex. In both cases, boundaries must be clearly drawn and respected. Otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for certain disaster.
Friendship is based on trust. More than anything, a friendship must be one of trust. The dictionary defines trust as “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a [another] person or thing.” In other words, by trusting, we rely on others, and are loyal to them. This doesn’t mean we’re blind or reckless in doing so. We should be discerning in all things, including friendships. In a trusting friendship, we place a great amount of faith and hope in another person emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Which brings us to our final point:
Are we practicing the art of friendship? Are we loving sacrificially and unconditionally? Trusting wholeheartedly? Setting healthy boundaries? The church needs healthy Christ-centered friendships. We all need them, and the whole world needs to see us living them out. Are we being the best friend we can be? Are we reclaiming the lost art of friendship?