7 Biblical Tips for Cultivating True Friendships
“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’” - C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
It is wonderful to find a companion who shares something in common with us which then builds into a genuine friendship. However, there are times when making and sustaining lasting friendships does not come easy.
For adults, life can get busy with balancing various responsibilities at work, home, family life and other activities. Finding time to cultivate friendships can be challenging and there will always be those that we struggle to connect with. Forging true friendships takes time and commitment. Are we making it a priority? Are there things that we can do to start and continue a friendship?
God’s truth found in the Bible can help us in times when finding, making and maintaining friendships can be tough.
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What Is Friendship?
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
The union between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit reveals a closeness and relationship which we all long for, and God invites us to be a part of that. People were made for companionship as image bearers of the triune God and it was declared that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).
God made Eve as a helper for Adam and walked with them in the Garden of Eden before the fall. He was relational to them and they were relational toward Him and one another. Even after Adam and Eve sinned, it was the Lord who first embraced them and unfolded His plan of redemption against the evil one (Genesis 3:15).
Friendship is most clearly demonstrated in the life and death of Jesus. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:13-15).
Jesus has revealed Himself to us and has not withheld anything, even His life. When we follow and obey Him, we are called His friends. He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature (Hebrews 1:3). We can come to know God because He became flesh and has made Himself known to us. He laid down His life for us. To be known and loved by God and to be called His friends should motivate us in being a friend to others out of our love for and obedience to Jesus. We can love others because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
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7 Ways to Forge Friendships
1. Pray for One or Two Close Friends
Have we asked God for close friendships? He cares about us and knows all that we need. It might never have been something we would think to pray for.
In 1 John 5:14-15 it says, “this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
In faith, we can ask Him to bring someone into our lives to encourage us, to challenge us and to continue to point us to Jesus. If we have asked God to help us cultivate close friendships that can spur us on in our faith and life, we need to believe that He will answer us. Let’s be expectant that God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine by His power at work in us (Ephesians 3:20).
2. Look to the Bible for Wisdom on Friendship
The Bible is filled with wisdom and the book of Proverbs has much to say on friendship, including choosing friends wisely and being a friend. It speaks of good counsel from a friend: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice” (Proverbs 27:9).
It also warns about those who can break down friendships: “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28) and “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9).
In the New Testament, Jesus is our greatest example of what it means to be a friend. He says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13). From Genesis to Revelation we see the story of God’s love and friendship with people. He has always been pursuing us. Will we pursue others with this same love that Christ had for us?
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3. Be a Friend
It is not just about our own edification and what we can get out of a friendship. Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others’ and 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
There are many who are lonely and struggling, longing for a friend and someone to listen. Who can we bless and encourage? Is there anyone that we should get to know? Not every acquaintance or person we help will become a close friend. Yet, we are called to love our neighbor and even our enemies, and serve those that we meet and love them like Jesus does.
As it says in Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
4. Take the Initiative
Taking a step of faith can be really difficult. Asking someone to meet up for coffee, inviting someone into our home or doing something that we hope will bless someone can take courage. There may be all sorts of barriers. Perhaps it is overcoming shyness or fear. Maybe there is a cultural or societal wall that needs to be broken, prejudice that needs to be challenged or we simply need to trust that Jesus will be with us in all our interactions.
It may be difficult and following Jesus is not easy, yet there is no greater way to live. We must be intentional and open up our heart and home with those around us, showing hospitality and kindness, and loving them as Christ loves us. It was Jesus who initiated redemption by pouring out His grace on us when we were still enemies and sinners against God (Romans 5:6-10). If God can lavish such amazing grace onto us, we can pour out that same grace on others.
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5. Live Sacrificially
Jesus was always moving from place to place, meeting different people from the crowds and meeting their physical and spiritual needs. Yet, He continuously made time to spend with His Father in prayer and with His disciples. Ultimately, Jesus lived a life of sacrifice as He obeyed His Father and laid down His life on the cross for us.
We can now be a friend of God’s because He died for our sin, reconciling us into a right relationship with Him. We are to go and do likewise and live a life that is less about us, more about Jesus and is self-sacrificing toward others. Being transformed by the Savior’s sacrificial love, we are able to love others in a radical way and invest in people like Jesus did.
6. Stand by Friends in Ups and Downs
A true friend is steadfast and will remain in times of hardship and sorrow as well as moments of joy and celebration. Friends share both trials and accomplishments and are transparent and truthful. The close friendship shared between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18:1 demonstrates this: “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Jonathan showed kindness to David when his father King Saul pursued David’s life. David trusted Jonathan to help him persuade his father to relent, but also to alert him if Saul was still after his life (1 Samuel 20). After Jonathan was killed in battle, David was grieved which showed the depth of their relationship (2 Samuel 1:25-27).
7. Remember That Jesus Is the Ultimate Friend
It can be difficult to forge true, lasting friendships but as we trust the Lord to help us in this, we need to remember that Jesus is our ultimate friend. He calls believers His friends because He has opened up to them and kept nothing hidden (John 15:15). He died for us, He loved us first (1 John 4:19), He chose us (John 15:16), and when we were still far off from God He brought us near by His blood, shed for us on the cross (Ephesians 2:13).
He is the friend of sinners and promises never to leave nor forsake those who trust in Him. The foundation of a true and lasting friendship will be one that spurs us on to follow Jesus in all of life, willing us to finish the race towards eternity.
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Ruth Clemence is a wife, mom, writer and award-winning blogger based in Cardiff, Wales. Read more at: ruthclemence.com.