Friends . . . And Then Friends
The wide variety of friendships over the course of our lives often adds a spice of adventure. That is not an inherently negative statement, simply a true one. The man who has been a waiter for the last ten years at the restaurant you go to every week may be a friend but he perhaps might not be the most intimate one with whom you share your life trials. Then there is the friend who you knew over your childhood but have not talked to in fifteen years. Another category of friend is the one that you talk to nearly every day and you are really invested in each other. These various types of friendships weave into our lives interactions with people in a fascinating degree of levels ranging from “how are you today” to working through someone’s deepest hurts. Yet, we are also left with a pressing question, what is the mark of a true friend?
The current moment in which we live is truly pressed by emotions. Oftentimes, friendships can be defined simply by how another person makes one feel. Loyalty is more spoken of than truly found. Putting a stamp of approval on someone’s actions tends to be valued more than a truth dissension from them even with a loving hand. Add into the mix we are some of the first generations dealing with the matter of the online world which is another element of “friendship” to discuss, and we are left needing biblical counsel as to what marks a true friend. Once we understand this point we can not only see who in our life is truly a friend to us but also comprehend how to be more faithful in our interactions with others.
Back in my competitive shooting days I distinctly remember several occasions when my friends and I would undergo hard practice sessions we would often watch one another to find each other’s faults. Particularly, this happened on two different occasions. If it was right before a competition, then we would work hard to try to find the little error that was holding us back from picking up that extra target out of a hundred. Sometimes a shooter was in a slump and by having one of the gang simply stand behind him for a round or two, his error could be remedied in short order before the competition began. Then again, there were times when we would have people travel to our area from a different part of the state in the offseason to work on a major overhaul. Whichever was the case, the goal of the practice remained the same. We would strive to find some way to pick out the error and push each other to improve. Sometimes that involved a box or two, at other points we would shoot four to five hundred shells together in a day.
Obviously, in such a situation you were not looking for “flattery” from someone heralding you as the best ever. You simply wanted those who would be honest with you as to what you needed to work on during each rep. In a similar way, the book of Proverbs describes a remarkable difference between a friend and an enemy:
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” -Proverbs 27:6
If you genuinely love someone and happen to see they are practicing some grave error, then you will faithfully let them know about it. A true friend is someone who has the guts to look you in the eye and tell you that you are dead wrong when everyone else sings your praises simply speaking what tickles your ears. It is an enemy who would love to kiss you profusely in the sense of blinding you so you do not see the chink in your armor through which they shall thrust their dagger. This point helps us to see something powerfully true about friendship. It goes deeper than mere feelings and emotions down to the truth. A faithful friend shall tell me the truth even if it hurts because it is better for me to suffer a blow from them than to have the enemy slit my throat in the battle.
Value This Friend
It strikes me this sort of friend that matches what we see in Proverbs is exceedingly rare though not entirely absent from the world today. Most likely, you will have many friends in a general sense but only a few friends who will truly look into your life and pull you aside to have a serious talk about a pitfall you have not seen. This reality means we must place a high value on these individuals by demonstrating an eagerness to listen to them which requires humility. Our pride often fights against being told we are wrong or that we need to repent. How much more is that true when we are talking with someone whom we might consider a peer in our group. Yet, biblically speaking, humbling ourselves is precisely what we are called to do. We could even go so far as to say that we should rejoice to have a friend so willing to take this biblical action.
While all that is true, we must go one step further in applying this text. We must also be ready to be the type of friend that Proverbs speaks of in this passage. This is not a call to go around obnoxiously declaring every friend or family member’s faults. There are too many flippant critics who act in a shallow way throughout the pages of social media. No, that type of social media critic is no friend at all. Rather, the Proverb mentions the wounds of the friend being faithful. They are given with the intent to heal some sort of issue going on in the person. If we rebuke a friend or family member, let it be with this goal in mind to see them grow. That is the point about a true friendship. It is centered on the love of God which promotes selflessness. The cynic aims criticism for the self-gratification of hearing his own voice. An enemy refuses to give critical feedback because he wants to see his opponent destroyed. A true friend will give a wound, but it is for the sake of seeing the other man move forward. That, dear reader, is a mark of a profoundly blessed gift of friendship!