I love friendships. This Christian life is not one that was designed to be lived lonely (Ecc. 4:9-10.) Sometimes being a friend or making a friend is a challenging endeavour that seems overwhelming. Will people like me for who I am? Can I be honest? Will I be able to reach that vulnerable place where friendships blossom? Perhaps you’re struggling with exactly how to be a friend. Thankfully, there is no shortage of direction in the Bible on how to create long-lasting friendships.
Humility. The Bible is consistently calling us to be humble. This is where a friendship begins. Philippians 2:3 tells us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility, value others above yourselves.” Any friendship based on what you might get out of it, is a dangerous place to be. We want our friendships to be based on honesty and truth, not built on misguided intentions and deceit.
Listen. We are not the Lord. We do not have all of the answers, nor are we suppose to. Having the ability to listen – without thinking about what you are going to say next – is an important pillar in friendships. The best way to invest into others, is to ask about their life, listen intently to their answers, and then ask some more. How would we get to know someone deeply if we only talk about ourselves? Ephesians 4:2 calls us to be “humble, gentle and patient.” It’s important that we ask each other questions like “how are you?” and allow the opportunity for them to give an honest answer, not just the polite one.
Stop gossiping. I’ve decided to “bold” this one – because it is just THAT important. This is a hard one, especially for women, myself included. I could honestly do a whole blog post just on this topic and how damaging it truly is. It’s so easy to use gossip or the latest dirt as your “in” to a friend group. But what are we sacrificing for the ease of acceptance? Our honesty? Another’s trust in us? Another friendship? In Romans 14:13 we are told to stop passing judgement on one another and to firmly decide to not put a stumbling block in front of one another. I think that it’s safe to say that bringing gossip into your friend group is you choosing to put a stumbling block in front of your friends, it’s not fair to anyone, especially the one being gossiped about. What is considered gossip? Any comment about somebody or a situation that you’re not directly involved in, anything that you would not say to an individual in a face to face conversation, and anything that was said to you in confidence by another. In Romans 12:10, we are called to “be devoted to one another in love” and to “honour one another above yourselves.” Is gossiping following through on these directions? Even more so, in 1 John 3:18 it says “My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” You must CHOOSE to serve and love your brothers and sisters in Christ, in an honest and supportive way.
Build each other up. This one goes hand in hand with the previous. Remember as a kid when grown ups all around us would be like “actions speak louder than words.” And if you were anything like me, you’d roll your eyes into the back of your head and think “blah, blah, blah…” But yet, here we are. You can say “I love you”, “I’m praying for you”, “you can trust me” and everything that goes along with that – but those words are empty without action. To build strong friendships, we need to be building each other up in Christ. It literally says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, it says, ” Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…” I would say that direction in itself is pretty self-explanatory.
Disciple one another. As a Christian and a friend, it is important to be honest and truthful with gentleness and love (Ephesians 4:1-3.) If your friend is struggling, it is so important to walk alongside them through that – but also to be truthful. It says in Proverbs 27:17, “iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We have the responsibility to help our brothers and sisters around us to further their relationship and journey with Christ. Challenge each other and hold one another accountable for your actions.
Forgive. Hurt happens. Mistakes happen. Be willing to forgive others and be forgiven by others (Colossians 3:13.) There’s that old saying that continues to ring true, day after day, that another’s poor and hurtful actions towards you, speaks more about them as a person than you. I’ve been in the position of hurting others during in the deepest and darkest area of my hurt – it’s no excuse, just truth. I had to accept that I had done wrong by my friend and wait for her forgiveness. I have also been in the position of being hurt by loved ones. It comes down to an understanding that no one is perfect – we are all sinners and flawed by our human nature. But Jesus Christ’s love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8.) Let’s out-honour those who hurt us, by lifting them up in prayer.
Lastly, in 1 Peter 3:8 we are called to be “like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” These are the beginnings of a great friendship. Be aware of who you surround yourself with, its common knowledge that those around us greatly influence our decisions. 1 Corinthians 15:33 even says, “do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals.” Seek out wise and honest friendships, ones that will stand the test of time. Popularity does not equal good friendships. It is better to have one GREAT friend, then to have multiple acquaintances. So take some time and invest into one another. Meet your neighbour, make that coffee date and most of all, bring your friendship needs to your Heavenly Father and lay these budding relationships at the foot of the cross.