That’s how many friends that Facebook would tell you that I have. I do know all of those people. Or at least most of them. I’d probably even approach more than half of them if I saw them on the street. Still, it’s a little bit awkward to see that number and wonder how many of those people I’ve talked to within even the past few months. Whatever that number actually is, it is higher than what it would’ve been before the start of the year. I’ve intentionally reached out to a few people every other week or so in an attempt to invest in souls around me. It has proven to be a good thing. I think I’ve got more out of the act than anyone who I’ve contacted. But does that make us closer? Friends at all? What does it mean to be a real friend? What does that take?
In my decade plus since high school (it’s really been that long?) I’ve certainly made several new friends. But the amount of people I no longer hang out with is a much larger number. I’ve been learning what it is that I need most in a friend. I’ve been learning the ways I lack. My interests have changed. But I don’t mourn the lessened quantity but celebrate the quality of the friendships that God has graced me with. And I’m grateful for a better perspective on how I should improve my friendship skills.
I’m a big fan of Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. It’s a book that opened my eyes quite a bit both on how I loved and how I accepted it. I feel like I’m better at assuming love when someone close interacts with me in a way that doesn’t natively speak it to me. I love that the book is intended for many kinds of relationships and it’s helped me to realize that words of affirmation mean a great deal to me. For me, this is especially true in a romantic relationship. When it comes other friendships, I feel like being intentional is still important. Investing quality time is the expression I believe is the bedrock for most of these bonds. There are other ways to love on those close, but it’s impossible to initiate those methods without first spending time together.
Of course, it’s more than that. I loved the tweet I saw recently from pastor Sammy Rhodes, “True friends say hard things in gentle ways”. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” I find it frustrating how often I hear people talk about backing their friend no matter what path they choose. I think there’s a pretty distinct difference between being loving and accepting. I’m thankful for a friend that can help me see when I’m in the wrong. A real friendship will involve conflict. Healthy relationships are the ones that don’t seek to avoid conflict but to navigate towards a resolution respecting both individuals. Our human relationships help sharpen us for divine responsibilities. Seeing another as a soul loved by a great God makes it easier to see where we can forgive, encourage, and work with them.
The bible has a lot more to say on what it means to be a friend. Equipped with this, we can see who it is in life we should invest in as our true friends.
- 1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
- John 15:12-14 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
- Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing
- Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
- 1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace
- Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
It even addresses what to avoid while looking for friends like in 1 Corinthians 15:33 and in Proverbs 22:24-27. It makes it pretty clear that we can fall into the same kind of destructive habits of those closest to us. Which we can reasonably assume that spending time with life giving people will encourage us into being life giving people. The word that keeps coming to mind as I read over these verses is service. I feel that one of the biggest parts of love is serving. Consistently building up, forgiving, encouraging, working together, rebuking, and walking in line with. God calls us to the kind of love that is intentional. Without consistently taking steps to be a voice of love in another’s life, even when that means being tough, we’re losing out on the chance to be a true friend. Thank God for the true friends in my life.