Most of us have friends of some sort, but how many true friends do we have?
I have close to 5,000 Facebook friends but I only know a few hundred of them and I would only count 50 or so of those as ‘friends’ in any real sense of the word. The nearly more than three months of COVID-19 lockdown have prompted me to think on things like the imminence of death, truth, and … true friends. I have concluded that, at best, I have just five true friends. And then I wonder to myself if they would consider me a true friend.
What is a True Friend?
What is it that makes a person a true friend, and what makes me a true friend to someone else? I have my own ideas on this, but I scanned dozens of internet articles on the subject to see what others think. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that almost all of these articles were written by women and for women. I am told on the very best authority, my wife, that women have many friends but that men typically have few. She may be generally correct, and she certainly is right concerning me.
The articles I scanned listed qualities like entertaining, nurturing, protective, respectful and so on. However, these don’t describe what I consider as definitive of a true friend.
Here is my list – A True Friend:
- Wants to spend time with you and consistently makes the effort to ensure that this happens.
- Talks to you about things that matter and not just catch-up and small talk.
- Converses rather than lectures and never regards you as just a potential resource.
- Asks questions that evidence genuine interest in you and your world.
- Never betrays a confidence and withholds judgement.
- Sticks with you in all circumstances and is there for you through the really tough times.
- Is happy for you when you succeed or when good things happen in your life.
True Friendship is Bi-lateral
So, when I note the few true friends I have, then I must also evaluate my own qualities as a true friend. How many of my seven criteria do I meet? If I fall short in several of these then it is very likely that those I consider true friends do not see me as such. So much for my opinions. But what did Jesus say about true friendship?
Jesus, the True Friend
As a child at Sunday School, I often sang the ditty ‘what a friend we have in Jesus…’ Is this just a song lyric? No. it is a biblical truth. John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. So, Jesus is my friend because he died for me and because he meets all of the seven criteria I have determined (note the touch of presumption here). But does Jesus regard me as a true friend? Perhaps I need to read the very next verse of John 15 where he said: ”You are my friends if you do what I command”. Hmmm, so it seems that he has at least one other criteria on his list.
You see, Jesus and I are not equal; he is not my buddy, he is my mentor, saviour, and Lord. He is my king and I am his subject. While he is a true friend to me, I cannot be his true friend unless I obey him. and his command is that we love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34).
So where is all this going? Well, my conclusion to my locked-in introspection is that perhaps one reason I have so few true friends is that I am not a true enough friend to others.
Now, here is another reality check; true friends do not spring instantly into our lives. It takes decades to develop the kind of relationship that I have described. So, for me at least (I am 72 years old) I am not about to make new true friends, so I need to focus on being true to those I consider my true friends. Perhaps there is still time for you to make new true friends.
Lockdown restricts many of us from seeing our families, entertaining, and so on, but it does not prohibit us from communicating. Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp, email, and phone, are inferior substitutes for physical fellowship, but they are still tools we can use to retain true friends.
Whilst everyone needs to cultivate and retain true friends, but for Christians, this is particularly important. For those born again of the Spirit, friendships do not end at the graveside; they continue for eternity. The only things we can take with us into the next life are relationships. And even in the here-and-now, good relationships are the binding agent for the church and a vital ingredient of a healthy congregation.
It goes even further.
So, while all relationships are important, and relationships with fellow Christians are very important, true relationship with Jesus Christ is of paramount importance. The question is not, ‘how true a friend is Jesus?’, but ‘how true a friend am I to Jesus?’
But, I don’t want to leave it here. No matter how lacking we are, Jesus will always be our true friend. The second verse of the song ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ goes like this:
Just hours from pushing the ‘publish’ button on this article, I received an emailed Blog post from Frank Viola. I am giving you the link HERE because he both confirms and adds to the ideas that I have expressed – definitely worth reading.