“Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts…Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” (Proverbs 19:6; 25:17)
Do you remember your elementary school days when you learned about how magnetic objects attract or repel each other? The like poles of the magnets repel each other, but the opposite poles attract each other. It’s the way God created magnetic attraction, although it seems illogical to us at first. Some people have much in common with us, on the surface. But because of personality differences or some other reason, we are not attracted to them as friends. Have you ever had a friend or neighbor who wanted to be closer to you than you wanted to be toward him? Perhaps he had many needs, or was lonely, or saw something in you that drew him closer. Maybe it was from sheer convenience that she was drawn to you, both of you frequently being in the same place at the same time. There may have been times when we have pursued someone too zealously or felt uncomfortably shadowed by someone else.
Proverbs 25:17 instructs us to be wise about how often we visit with our neighbors, so they don’t get tired of us. When there is no mutual desire to spend time together, a good intention may turn sour. Appropriateness is a keyword when it comes to awkward situations with friends. Are you someone who likes to help people, and who tends to make friends with more needy folks? Ministry workers and missionaries are especially prone to this mistake. Proverbs 19:6 warns against friends who seek material blessings rather than a mutually growing relationship. Do you have a friend with whom you are the one who always initiates contact, without any encouragement from the other person? It’s appropriate for friends to seek each other’s fellowship, not for a friendship to be one-sided, even in a mentoring relationship. Are you competitive with your friends, or do you serve each other? Do you seek friends who, in comparison to you look inferior? In Luke 22:24-27 Jesus rebuked his disciples. “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
How can you be more appropriate with your friends? In what way can you apply gospel love and service to your closest and longest-held friendships? Wise Christians don’t take their friends for granted.