This is part one of our six-part study series on Friendship: ‘The God who Befriends’. It considers what we can learn from various friendships depicted throughout Scripture, and also explores what the theme of friendship can teach us about God himself.
Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.
I remember it really clearly: stood in the kitchen of my student house, clutching a cup of tea, and being told – in no uncertain terms – that I needed to be kinder with my words.
The deliverer of this stark truth was someone I had met only once before, but who had been invited for dinner by one of my housemates.
In that moment, I knew three things.
Firstly, I was cross. What right did this person have to offer up opinions and rebuke me when they’d only just met me?
Secondly, they were right: I frequently used words as weapons rather than gifts, and they weren’t the first person to call me out on it. But – strangely enough – they were the first person I listened to.
Thirdly, we were going to be friends. This realisation surprised me, but I knew it with a deep certainty. And I was right – three years later, they’re one of my closest friends.
This story is a worked example of these proverbs, and an illustration of how friendship isn’t meant to be consistently comfortable and cosy. True friendship does not shrink from correcting the friend – after all, iron cannot sharpen iron unless forceful contact is made.
These proverbs assume that a friend persists and does not shy away from constructive criticism. Such criticism is done in a way which is open and direct, remaining caring and completely concerned with the best interests of the addressee.
Does this ring true for your friendships? Or does it present you with a challenge?
Friendship is a key part of life and so, for the Christian, a key part of discipleship. Through friendship, God teaches us about others, about community, and about himself. After all, he is the God who calls us friend.
So, what does it mean to be a friend? Each friendship will take a different form, depending on the people engaging in it. Colleagues, family, fellow parents, study partners… wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, friends will most likely play a part.
We see friendship modelled in various ways throughout the Bible, and these are the relationships that we’ll be exploring in this series over the coming weeks.
Friendships are significant, presenting us with opportunities for both evangelism and discipleship, as well as for learning more about God, and they are a part of life where we can see God working powerfully – in us and through us, every day.