A friendship really working depends on me to preserve it. Friendships do not just automatically continue without commitment and work. That is how I should look at it. But all too often we view it as the other person’s responsibility. ‘If they did more, it would be better; why haven’t they called me?’, etc; But the fact is, if I want to have real friendships that are valuable and lasting, the burden is on me to be that kind of a person. ‘He who would have friends must show himself friendly’. Do I do that? Probably not enough.
Each Christian ought to do some honest self inventory: ‘Do I have an intimate real friend that is vital to my walk? Am I such a friend to anyone? Do I let people get close to me? Do I desire to be such to anyone or am I satisfied with not being close to anyone’?
“It is a common proverb that ‘a man is known by his friends’. This means that our intimate friends are what they are to us because they are essentially like us in all that is morally important. We choose our friends, not by accident, but because their souls mirror ours and their minds vibrate in harmony with ours. Friendship begins as soon as this mutual harmony of hearts is felt and it begins to end when the harmony ends. We can be respectful to brethren with whom we feel we have little in common, but it is emotionally impossible for us to count them among our intimate friends.
“Our best friends are those whose company most makes us afraid to sin. These friends are rare and to be valued like solid gold. It is clear that this was the effect which Robert M’Cheyne had upon Andrew Bonar. Bonar could never be the same once he had met M’Cheyne. All his life he remembered this saintly friend, whose presence made God more real to him and, therefore, made sin more foul to him. It is one reason why we should aim more at godliness. An exemplary life may do as much good as a life time of sermons. There are some Christians who impress us by their talents or giftedness. But there are others whose awesome holiness makes us afraid. If we find one friend of this kind, we shall do well to cherish his friendship for life.
Real friendship is not for popularity, not for being liked or making people feel good; it is about real love, seriousness about life, helping each other through anything that comes, and helping each other not sin, but to become increasingly conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Real friendship is for the rough times and hard things we go through, not for the fun and entertaining easy times. ‘A brother is born for adversity’ and ‘faithful are the wounds of a friend’. For all of us, the times when we really need true friends to be there for us is not when everything is going well when are we are facing no problems; the time we need true friends to be a true friend is when we are fighting our big battles–discouragement, sickness, church problems, situational pressures, on-going personal hardship that no one knows about, or family death and earthly loss–such times are when friendship is needed the most. That is when people contact their friends at such times–they need them very much for help and encouragement. And that is not wrong; God designed it that way because He has ordained that no Christian can walk out the Christian life properly alone without brethren who are close to them.
“A Christian ought to prize his friendships and to preserve them. Much is owed to true friends. They impose duties and obligations on us which are not to be neglected, even when life is full of business. We become too dogmatic in minor things and the remedy for over-certainty is to listen at times to our friends’ judgment of us. ‘The wounds of a friend are faithful’ (Pr. 27:6), in that they hurt us for our good. Therefore, we should not resent them.
“The temptation we all have is to mainly spend time mainly with those who admire us and never dare to stand up to us or disagree with us. John Wesley would have gotten much improvement if he had listened more to Whitefield. We can be too sure of our opinions and so lose the chance of becoming a better person and a more solid Christian.
“One of the most painful parts of Christian friendship is to be honest with brethren we love when we consider them to be wrong or misguided. We often do not have the moral courage to stand up to our brothers or sisters when they go off on a tangent [or when they are simply wrong about something]. In this, we must remember Paul’s faithfulness to stand up to Peter and rebuke him for his position that was a compromised one (Gal. 2:11). Instead, we generally prefer to keep a criminal silence rather than giving a well-timed and proper rebuke. But when we remain silent at such times, we are not acting as friends should. We are not to allow our brother to sin (Lev. 19:17); ‘open rebuke is better than secret love’ (Pr. 27:5). The Lord Jesus felt no inconsistency in altering his tone of voice to Peter from ‘blessed are you, Simon’ to ‘get thee behind me, Satan’ (Mt. 16:23). The two expressions appear to have come from Christ’s lips during one conversation. This shows how quickly we must sometimes change our voice from praise to proper blame when dealing with friends in Christ whom we love.
Are you and I honest with our friends when they are wrong? Or are we, as my author friend says, criminally silent, and we hold back from saying what our friends need to hear? When we do this, we are a coward and we care more about our own reputation than we do about our friend. Thus, we are not being a true friend.
“Therefore, the price of real friendship is honesty. A genuine friend must at time be ready to appear judgmental, intrusive, or unfair, even being cruel. But we must be cruel to be kind. Even if we have to wound those we love, we know that it is part of hate, not love, to see our brother wander from the path and let them go unchecked. However much we love our Christian brothers or sisters, we must love the Lord Jesus and the truth more. This sentiment is fully consistent with the gospel and, indeed, is the very essence of Christian friendships. But such friendship is rare because we either lack the courage to correct our brethren in their crankish quirks or else we take it badly when they put their finger on our own cherished sins or inconsistencies.
To Be Continued