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January 22, 2012
Just how important is a friend?Almost anyone you ask will admit to having at least a few friends, and though some people might deny it, everyone needs friends and likes having friends. Instead of going into philosophical or psychological reasons for friendship, it is important to listen to what our most important source of information has to say about a friend. Listen to what God says in Scripture.
Numbers of times the Bible explicitly uses the words friend or friendship, and even more information is included within the concept using other words and phrases. Found are examples of friends, descriptions of their treatment and actions, friends turned traitor, false friends, and wrong friends. Obviously, the idea of a “friend” is an important one to God.
Notice the example of how God viewed Moses. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11). There are several similar instances, e.g., Abraham the “friend of God” (James 2:23) and David who was “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).
The Law given through Moses contains much information about how to treat friends. Just one example of this conduct is found as specification for Jubilee are enumerated: “If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend or buy from your friend’s hand, you shall not wrong one another.” (Leviticus 25:14). Job knew how friends were supposed to treat one another, “For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend; So that he does not forsake the fear of the Almighty.” (Job 6:14).
Job also knew about friends who were traitors, “My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, Like the torrents of wadis which vanish …” (Job 6:15-21). What better known traitor is there than the friend of Jesus—Judas? His traitorous friendship was even prophesied in a Psalm, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.” (Psalm 41:9). The tone of love combined with grief can be heard in Jesus’ words to Judas on that day of betrayal, “And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.” (Matthew 26:50).
Wrong choices in friends can make us enemies of the very ones we should choose as friends. James is so plain in his statement on this matter: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4).
In examining God’s word, the very essence of His will can be heard in the statements of Jesus regarding the greatest commandments: “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). A life, pleasing to God, comes down to simply being a friend to God and being a friend for God in our relationships with others.
F-R-I-E-N-D—looking at the first two letters of the word, we find something to help us remember two of the most important aspects of being a friend. Use the “F” to remember that a friend is F-aithful. Use the “R” to remember that a friend is R-ighteous.
Daniel is someone whose life is shown in Scripture from the time he was a very young man taken to Babylon through his service in the Persian Empire as an elderly man. From beginning to end, we see the picture of what it means to be faithful to God. Surely, being faithful to God is of vital importance. God looked favorably upon Daniel. However, how did those around Daniel see him? How did even his enemies view him in regard to things of the world?
In his later years, Daniel was serving in the empire of Persia. God had blessed him. Men in government around Daniel saw Daniel’s success and were jealous to the point of carrying out plans of ill-will toward him. As they proceeded with their machinations, they ran into a problem. “Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.” (Daniel 6:4). What a friend! Not only was he faithful to God, but he was faithful to the government and the people! He didn’t neglect his duties; he wasn’t corrupt in any way at all. Can we say that of ourselves?
The apostle Paul had friends. How did he view them? It is clearly seen in just the examples of three friends mentioned in his letter to Christians in Colosse— Epaphras, Tychicus, and Onesimus. “Just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf” (Colossians 1:7). “As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information.” (Colossians 4:7). “and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here.” (Colossians 4:9). Would Paul be talking about us this way?
Faithfulness and righteousness go hand-in-hand. When one is faithful to God and to his fellow man, he is also righteous. To be found righteous is to be found doing the “right” things. What are the “right” things? Simply put, the “right” things are God’s things. To be a true friend of God, all must “do” what He says. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15). Righteousness by its very nature is active.
Abraham, a friend of God, was found to be doing the right thing when he followed God’s instructions regarding his only son, Isaac. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:21-24). The logical conclusion is that if Abraham did not believe God and was not found “doing” the right thing, he would not have been a friend.
The people of Israel were carefully instructed in the Law given through Moses. They were reminded to teach those who came after them the principle of righteousness: “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.” (Deuteronomy 6:25). Once again, emphasized is: righteousness is “doing” what is right—”doing” the will of God.
There is an opposite side to doing right—doing wrong. All who would be a friend of God must be found doing the right things. There can be no bond, no agreement, between righteousness and lawlessness. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2Corinthians 6:14).
Think on these things: Am I found faithful, with no negligence or corruption? Am I found righteous, that is doing the right things toward man and God? Am I a friend of God and for God?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.