What does the Bible say about Friendship?
I was talking with a mentor and fidgeting in my chair when she asked me how many friends I had. I was new to Nashville, devoting a lot of time to my marriage, and had just gone through some major transitions that shifted a lot of my relationships.
I was visibly uncomfortable when I said, "I don't know. Just a few." She sensed how disappointed I was and gently said, "you know, your husband and your sisters count."
I was shocked by her gentle response and felt permission to confide in her. I brought my gaze up to meet hers and admitted,
I feel like a lot of people have a really solid group of friends and I feel like I'm always the one who doesn't.
This brought on a conversation I had needed for years. My idea of what friendship was had been shaped by social media, marketing and advertisements, and assumptions I'd made from the world. Instead, I learned I needed to seek God's heart for friendship and find out He had to say about it.
What does the Bible say about friendship?
1. God made us for community
If you've been in the church for any amount of time you know "community" is a buzz word. Around the small Christian college I attended, you'd roll your eyes if anyone ever said the phrase "intentional community." What received an eye roll in college became a longing for me and many others post-grad.
God created us to be in community, He created us to have friends. We know that "iron sharpens iron" (Proverbs 27:17) and that a "cord made of three strands is not easily broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:12) Throughout scripture God shows the power in unity and relationships, even in the fact that He Himself is three in one; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Isolation may feel more comfortable at times, but isolation only exposes us to more opportunities for spiritual attack and disconnection with God. Ecclesiastes 4:12 in the Message translation reads:
"By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst."
God doesn't say you need to have a huge number of contacts on your phone who you can call in crisis. He says we can rely on Him (Proverbs 3:5) and that we can trust Him to provide the people we need, even if it's just a few. It's about quality, not quantity (Proverbs 18:24).
Science also supports what Jesus modeled by having a close three friends, His twelve disciples, and then speaking with the crowds. Research shows we only need about 3-5 close friends and then can have varying levels of friendship, like acquaintances (Psychology Today).
2. Friends Build Each other Up
Friendship has a spiritual benefit, and the fancy word for it is "edification" or more simply put, building each other up.
God's design for friendship is that we would serve one another by lifting each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
This can look so many different ways. It's being the hands and feet of Jesus, supporting our friends financially, giving our time, freely listening, interceding for one another and so much more.
Friends allow us to see and experience God in a new way because we each are given different gifts (1 Corinthians 12). We get to reveal more of Jesus to our friends as we serve them.
We also get to build one another up through our words by speaking God's truth about someone over them. I think this is one of the best ways I've been supported by friends, and one of my favorite ways to support friends.
It makes us stand a little taller when someone in our life tells us they see something in us that we might not recognize in ourselves yet.
Our words are one of the greatest opportunities to lift other's up in their identity in Christ and Kingdom purpose (Ephesians 4:29). Don't miss out on it!
3. Friendship is flexible
When I was leaving Colorado I couldn't help but feel a little bit like a failure. I felt a lot of mixed emotions about leaving, and one was a little bit of guilt about the relationships I had to leave behind.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible during this season was about David and Jonathan.
They had a really deep connection and eventually life circumstances forced them apart. In God's kindness, they got to see each other one more time even though it seemed like they might never see each other again when they parted ways. This entire story is an epic story about a friendship in the midst of a really difficult time (1 Samuel 18).
I think David and Jonathan were deeply disappointed when they had to say goodbye. But they did what was required of them and were obedient to God.
We will all experience difficulty, disappointment, and disruptions to our friendships (even if they are coming from outside circumstances like in this story.)
God's vision for friendship is flexible.
We aren't meant to hold on too tightly to friends that we cherished for a season if it means staying when God is calling us to go.
We call God Jehovah-Jireh (the God who provides) and we can rely on Him to provide us with the right relationships for each season.