Here are some notes on a teaching session on this subject.
To explore together the biblical basis for befriending, and to discuss the place of evangelism in our friendships with those who are not yet believers.
Activity in pairs
Pair up with a person you do not know very well. Spend a few minutes talking to one another about how you became Christians.
Teaching on friendship in the book of Proverbs
|Constancy||Some people are fair-weather friends, Prov 14:20; 19:4,6,7, but a good friend ‘sticks closer than a brother’. A friend is loyal through thick and thin, Prov 27:10.|
|Candour||‘The wounds of a friend can be trusted’, Prov 27:6. Flattery is a snare, Prov 29:5, but an honest rebuke will in the end gain respect, Prov 28:23.|
|Counsel||A true friend offers both reassuring encouragement, Prov 27:9, and bracing challenge, Prov 27:17|
|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, Prov 26:18f.|
(after Derek Kidner)
Activity in small groups
You have been trying to engage a friend in conversation about Christian things for some time. Finally, the friend relents. “OK, I’ll give you 30 seconds to tell me how I can become a Christian.”
You have five minutes to decide what you’re going to say.
Some New Testament passages about befriending
|Being kind to our enemies||Luke 6:27-35|
|Jesus, the friend of ‘sinners’||Luke 7:33-34|
|Getting a good reception||Luke 10:1-6|
|Who to invite round for a meal||Luke 14:12-14|
|Pure religion||James 1:27|
|Winning without words||1 Peter 3:1-2|
|Always being prepared to give an answer||1 Peter 3:15-16|
N.B. Paul’s teaching on ‘not being yoked together with unbelievers’, 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, is a ‘red herring’ so far as befriending is concerned. To see why, look again at v17.
On loving the unlovely
What was the attitude of Jesus to the despised and needy?
- When the parents tried to bring their children to Jesus, the disciples ‘rebuked’ them. But when he saw this Jesus was indignant, and he took the children in his arms and blessed them, Mark 10:13-16.
- When blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, many in the crowd rebuked him. But Jesus asked for him to be brought to him, and restored his sight, Luke 18:35-43.
- The Pharisees would recoil with horror from a prostitute. But Jesus allowed one to bathe his feet with her tears, wipe them with her hair, kiss them, and anoint them with ointment, Luke 7:36-50.
- In those days is was said that ‘the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans’. But Jesus was an exception to this rule. The one he talked with at Jacob’s well was three times despised – she was a Samaritan, a woman, and a ‘sinner’, John 4:4-21.
- The Rabbis went far beyond the rules of hygiene in their dealings with people who had leprosy. They regarded such with loathing, and would even throw stones at them to drive them away. In contrast, Jesus had compassion on them. On one occasion, he stretched out his hand, and touched the leper, and healed him, Mark 1:40-45.
- Likewise, Jesus often touched the sick. In the case of the woman who had had a flow of blood for many years, he did not rebuke her when she touched him, but sent her away in peace and health, Mark 5:25-34. He even took the hand of a dead girl and restored her to life, Mark 5:21-24; 35-43.
- Finally, Jesus was happy to accept invitations into the home of disreputable folk such as Zacchaeus, Luke 19:1-10 and Levi-Matthew, Luke 5:27-30. With the latter, he even accepted him into his team of apostles, Luke 6:12-16.
Should Christians be non-judgmental?
Scripture distinguishes between two types of judgement
(a) Self-righteous, fault-finding, condemning, malicious, Mattew 7:1; Romans 2:1; 14:4; 1 Corinthians 4:5; James 4:12.
(b) Loving, correcting, protecting, righteous, Matthew 7:15; Luke 17:3; Ephesians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 3:10; 1 John 4:1; Jeremiah 5:31; 23:26; Lamentations 2:14; Ezekiel 13:6; Malachi 3:5; Acts 20:29f; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-6; 2 Peter 2:1.
Summary: John 7:24 – “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
Some summary points in conclusion
- Friendship is a valid end in its own right
- We are differently gifted: it’s OK for some to be more gregarious than others
- You can’t be equally close to everyone: even Jesus had ‘circles of friendships’
- Friendship is two-way: learn to take as well as give
- Being faithful to Christ can lose you friends as well as gain them
- The Christian message is ‘good news’. There is nothing in Jesus that you need be ashamed of
- What you are is more important than what you do; what you do is more important than what you say; but what you say is still important
- Listening is more important than talking