I read somewhere of a man who was working in the garden of his new home, when his lawnmower had broken down. He tried fruitlessly for two hours trying to get it going again. Suddenly, one of his neighbours appeared with a handful of tools. “Can I help?” he asked. In twenty minutes he had the mower working beautifully. “Thanks a lot,” the newcomer said. “And may I ask you, what do you make with such a fine set of tools?” “Friends, mainly.”
George Eliot wrote: ‘Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort, of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.’
On the other hand, it is easy to treat people as means to a selfish end. As one gregarious man boasted, “I have friends I haven’t even used yet.”
The Book of Proverbs contains lots of teaching on friendship. Derek Kidner, in his excellent commentary, summarises this teaching as follows:-
1. Constancy. Some people are fair-weather friends, Prov 14:20; 19:4,6,7, but a good friend ‘sticks closer than a brother’, 18:24. A friend is loyal through thick and thin, 27:10.
2. Candour. ‘The wounds of a friend can be trusted’, Prov 27:6. Flattery is a snare, 29:5, but an honest rebuke will in the end gain respect, 28:23.
3. Counsel. A true friend offers both reassuring encouragement, Prov 27:9, and bracing challenge, 27:17
4. Courtesy. A good friend is sensitive to the feelings of others. He does not outstay his welcome, Prov 25:17; is not light-hearted at the wrong time, 27:14; and knows when a joke has gone far enough, 26:18f.
Some NT passages about friendship:-
On being kind to our enemies – Luke 6:27-35
Jesus, the friend of ‘sinners’ – Luke 7:33-34
On getting a good reception – Luke 10:1-6
Who to invite round for a meal – Luke 14:12-14
On pure religion – James 1:27
On winning without words – 1 Peter 3:1-2
Always be prepared to give an answer – 1 Peter 3:15-16