A Friend in Good Times and Trials
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 17:17; 18:24b)
I don’t know how many friends you have, or whether you consider your friends closer than your family members. Perhaps you have friends whom you also consider your brothers or sisters in Christ. Maybe not. But there are close friendships described in the Bible which will serve as our models as true friends. This week we will consider the bonds of David and Jonathan, and Ruth and Naomi. But first, it is good to put aside any idea of what the world calls a buddy or a pal in favor of the biblical concept of someone who will lay down his life for you. Of course, our greatest friend is Jesus Christ, who literally died so that we may live, and did so (ironically) to ensure that we will live with him, even though he died. So from Jesus we learn, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13-14) As with Jesus, circumstances or seasons of life do not change our affection and love for our friends—people for whom we would drop everything to help them in their times of adversities and celebrate with them in their blessings.
There is some debate about how to interpret the meaning of “brother” in Proverbs, and the difference between a friend and a brother. Is a brother a family member who feels he must help us in our difficulties and is therefore “born” or created for this purpose? Or, does “brother” refer to a close friend in Christ who will be there to help us? In 18:24 is our friend closer than a brother because they know us more intimately and therefore better able to help us, especially with our spiritual needs? Maybe we only need to see the big picture about biblical friendships. John Gill writes, “Friendship ought to be mutual and reciprocal, as between David and Jonathan…who is to a man as his own soul…and so are of one heart and soul, as Jonathan and David, and the first Christians, were; this is true of Christ, and may be expressive of the close union between him and his people, and of his close adherence to their cause and interest; and of his constancy and continuance as a friend at all times; and of his faithfulness and unchangeableness” *
Our ability to be true Christian friends to others lies in the power of the Holy Spirit who works in us to help us know, receive, and grow our friendship with our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ, to the extent that the love we have for him overflows to others. On our own, we would not even care for our friends, let alone love them sacrificially. The Bible calls us to love others as the Good Samaritan loved the Jew utterly alone and destitute after a robbery. He forfeited his time, money, reputation, and journey to assist the victim in every possible way. His love was not emotional or sentimental, but active, decisive, intentional, and costly. Our friends do not interrupt our lives; they present us with opportunities to serve in the love of Christ.
Do you know if your friends need help today? Have you stayed in touch with them? Do you understand them with a godly love that penetrates beyond their superficial lives? As we begin considering wise, godly friendships, which people in your life will you be thinking about? In what ways would you like to be a better friend to them? Are you ready to be active, decisive, intentional about loving your friends, though it may cost you?
*John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-18.html