My family made a big move when I was seven, and I found myself starting second grade at a brand new school. During the first week of this new school, I was approached by a classmate outside the bathrooms who asked me bluntly if I wanted to be her friend. Naturally, I said yes. And that was that. From that point forward we were fast friends. Sleepovers, projects, school clubs, you name it. We did everything together. As an adult, I’ve sometimes wished that friendships were that easy. But they aren’t—and they shouldn’t be.
Biblical friendship is much more than time spent with someone else. As it’s described in the Bible, friendship is rich and full of conversations and life together. You may be thinking to yourself that the Bible doesn’t use the word “friend” or “friendship” that much. And you would be correct. But the Bible does talk about how we are to care for others and interact with fellow believers. As Christians, we are called to be kind to one another, put other’s needs above our own, forgive one another, be tenderhearted to one another, pray for one another, give thanks together, sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs together, be hospitable to one another, and the list goes on. We are also called to exhort one another, admonish one another, and call one another to repentance (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12-17, Romans 12:9-16).
These commands and instructions for a godly lifestyle are only able to be obeyed in the context of dynamic, rich, and vibrant friendships. They have to be made of sterner stuff than compliments and shopping trips in order to bear the weight of biblical confrontation, deep care, and accountability. And they have to be prayed for and cultivated. Just like money won’t magically appear in your savings account, neither will a deep friendship spring out of shallow conversation. The beauty of biblical friendship, as indicated by verses like the ones listed above, is that God has not intended us to bear the burdens and joys of life alone. Like David and Jonathan, the Lord has given us the wonderful gift of companionship with fellow believers; those with whom we can pray, pray for, serve, encourage, love, and yes, even go shopping or fishing.
There may be some of you reading this thinking, “Friendships like that sound great, but they are completely unattainable to me. I’m awkward and I can’t make friendships like that happen.” Well, you may be awkward. But the Bible doesn’t say that brotherhood and friendship is for un-awkward people. There are also some of you reading this that pride yourself in being “loners”. This, too, is unbiblical. Romans 12:15 tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. How are we to obey this if we remain isolated by choice? Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “ Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Exhorting one another every day cannot be done alone. It requires fellow believers who know you and are encouraging you in the Gospel.
If you are searching for friendships (or should be), I would recommend a few things. First of all, pray. Pray that the Lord would help you find a friend that you can live life with. Pray for wisdom and grace as you interact with others. Second, be involved in church. For those of us who work full time jobs and have family responsibilities, it can be daunting to think about spending time attending social gatherings and get togethers. I would suggest that church is a natural outlet for biblical friendship. This next week, ask someone you know or an acquaintance if they would like to grab coffee or come over for dinner. And then just ask questions and get to know them.
Lastly, I would say don’t be afraid to be honest. If someone at church asks you how you’re doing, and you’ve had an awful week, for crying out loud don’t tell them you’re “fine”. Be honest. Let them know you’ve had a challenging week and would appreciate prayer. I know of no other way to cultivate close friendships than honesty. It may take time, but sowing honesty into your daily conversations will help fellow believers know how to pray and care for you, and for you to care for them in return. So this February, don’t take the gift of friendship for granted. Thank the Lord for his provision in your life.