Tuesday, February 12, 2013

4 Ways to Be a Better Friend



photo credits
I once heard it said that a person who has a few very close friends in a lifetime is very blessed.  While I don't like to refer to someone as being my "best" friend to the exclusion of others, we can all acknowledge that there are some friends who God brings into our lives that touch us deeply.  They laugh with us, cry with us, pray for us and with us - they demonstrate their love to us in a way that leaves us different.   

Recently I was teaching our son the verse Proverbs 17:17 " a friend loves at all times" through learning a song from Dana Dirksen's album Songs for saplings.  (Yeah, go and listen to it if you have the chance - the tune is still stuck in my head.)  So I got to thinking about how we will teach our son about friends and how to be a good friend.  I know, at the age of 3, this is only a fledgeling concept for him, but you have to start somewhere.  But more than just teaching him through my words, I want to attempt to teach him through my life's example.  Whew, as many moms can relate, that can be a tall order. . .but I am so glad that God gives us grace for the task.
So I asked the preacher man for his thoughts on friendship and this is what I got. 


 4 Ways to Be a Better Friend



How many movies have you seen or books have you read in which there are two characters, and one is forced into the ethical dilemma of turning his friend in for something or "being true" to him? The response from the character in the wrong is often, "but I thought you were my friend!" They often express feelings of betrayal. I was in seminary near Philadelphia, PA when the "Don't Snitch" T-shirts became big hits on the streets. The code of the street said that the authorities were the enemy, and that talking to them about crime was a breach of friendship and loyalty. Probably the worst definition of friendship today is found on Facebook. How many "friends" do you have?
If we turn to the Word of God, which is our final authority for faith and practice, what do we find about friendship? I think that we use the term far too loosely, and we often don't take seriously enough the Biblical principles that address friendship. Here are just a few to get you started on evaluating your level of "friendliness"!

            1.         Work to develop an unguarded intimacy (Ex. 33:11; Prov. 27:6). Moses' relationship to God is used in Ex. 33:11 as a description of a true friendship. "The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (ESV). There was an openness in communication between God and Moses that can only exist between true friends. All guards are removed, because we truly believe that the person we are speaking with loves us and wants the best for us. There are no ulterior motives or hidden agendas with true friends.
This extends to the need for rebuke and confrontation. Proverbs 27:6 reads "faithful are the wounds of a friend…" showing that words of rebuke are spoken for the good of the hearer, not to hurt or harm them. How many friends do you have that you experience unguarded intimacy with? Are you developing your own trustworthiness and character to the point that others desire this level of friendship with you?

            2.         Work at demonstrating genuine (Biblical) love (John 15:13; Prov. 17:17). John 15:13 is a classic text on friendship, but is also a stark reminder. True friends love each other and are willing to sacrifice for each other. Proverbs 17:17 reminds us that a "friend loves at all times." There is no such thing as a fair weather friend. No matter the circumstances or the difficulties, a friend will be there. This leads to an important question, "what is love?" Seriously, it needs to be answered, because this is where Hollywood toes the line and we often confuse true love with a misguided sense of loyalty. Love within a friendship could be defined as "seeing innate value in another person and because of that person's value to you, always seeking God's best for that person, regardless of consequences to self." Okay, it may not be perfect, but it makes a point. Love within a friendship is not about trying to make my friends comfortable, happier, etc. It is a mutual relationship based on genuine love and trust in which two people push, pull, and walk with each other towards Christlikeness. We need to get that definition in our heads, because it will change how we look at some of those "ethical dilemmas" that some friendships face, and will cause us to search the scriptures for the "loving" response to every situation.

            3.         Work to be the type of believer who others would seek to emulate (Prov. 22:11, 24). This is scary. Have you ever heard the saying, "if all my friends were just like me, what kind of friends would my friends be?" While I will not attract people who are my "brother from another mother" and mimic me in every way, my character (or lack thereof) will play a major role in the types of people who want to be close to me. Proverbs 22:11 states that the person who loves "purity of heart" and "whose speech is gracious" will be friends with kings. In other words, good character is attractive! Proverbs 22:24 gives the opposite side of the coin, warning people not to befriend a man who is angry, because you will learn his ways. If you want good friendships, you need to be a person of integrity and character! This will make you attractive to the types of people you will want as lifelong, intimate friends! Now, I realize that you will have friends who are at various points in their walk with Christ. Some friends will be mentors to you, while other friends will be those you mentor. I'm not saying we need to be snooty and prideful in only selecting the "cream of the crop" in friends. But we must be going in the same direction. Here is the key: a friendship is two people in the same ship going in the same direction. As long as you are both heading in the same direction, many differences can be overlooked.

            4.         Work to avoid those sins that destroy friendships (Prov. 16:28). Proverbs 16:28 warns about gossips, who go around whispering, and whose stories can have the devastating effect of dividing close friends. We must realize that our friendships are not invincible, and when attacks come, we need to be ready to reconcile, communicate, forgive when needed, and rebuild trust.
            Remember in all areas of friendship that love "believes all things." Don't be gullible, but do be trusting. How many true friends do you have right now? What areas of your life currently hinder the closeness that you desire in your friendships with others? Seek to be a man or woman who loves the Lord, fellowships with Him daily, and cherishes a close walk with Him. Then, seek to be a friend who truly images our heavenly friend "who sticks closer than a brother."

 

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