"Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well."
3 John 1:2 (NIV)
3 John 1:2 (NIV)
What are characteristics of a true friend?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a friend is a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard; a person who gives assistance, a supporter; someone who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile. Wikipedia.org describes friendship as a mutually cooperative and supportive behavior between two or more people. While rather obvious, it's important to note that friendship involves a connection between or among human beings.
Let's take a look at several accounts in God's Word and behaviors demonstrated between people considered friends.
Jonathan and David made for an unlikely friendship. The eldest son of Saul, the first king of Israel, Jonathan was heir to his father's throne. The shepherd boy, David, on the other hand, was the youngest of Jesse's eight sons and quite insignificant. In fact, when King Saul turned away from following the LORD God and God sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse's home to anoint the future king of Israel, David was all but forgotten until Samuel asks, "Are these all the sons you have?"
Coming to love David as himself, Jonathan presents David with his own royal robes and armor as an acceptance of David as his equal. (1 Samuel 18)
Initially, people are quite often drawn together by a common interest, such as a hobby, work, or shared passion. While on his fourth missionary journey, the apostle Paul met a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla in Corinth. (Acts 18) Tentmakers by trade, Paul stayed and worked with them; and sometime later, they accompanied Paul when he sailed to Syria. Later, Paul acknowledges his friends in his letter to the Romans stating, "Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, risked their lives for me." (Romans 16:3)
David and Jonathan's friendship endured even when it became clear that David was to replace Jonathan as successor to his father's throne. Realizing his father's intentions to kill David, Jonathan devised a plan to save his friend's life. With great sadness and reaffirming their friendship, Jonathan and David part ways declaring, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD." (1 Samuel 20:42) Later, hearing of Jonathan's death, David honors his friend with the song of the bow. (2 Samulel 1:18)
Good friends urge, encourage, and hold one another accountable. Writing in his letter to the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Paul is adamant about thinking on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable--anything that is excellent or praiseworthy. In so doing, "the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9)
When the apostle Peter buckles under pressure from a group called the Judaizers, going against what he knows to be right concerning the gospel message, Paul opposes him. Holding Peter accountable, Paul reminds Peter of the truth he learned from Jesus. (Galatians 2)
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is on a rampage. Angry and furious that his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers are unable to tell him what his distressing dream was and interpret it, the king orders the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. Learning of the execution order, Daniel, a young man from Jerusalem taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar along with friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, calls on his friends to plead for mercy from God that they not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. God reveals the king's dream and the meaning to Daniel and everyone is saved. (Daniel 2)
In the New Testament book of James, the apostle urges we pray when in trouble or sick for the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
True friendship allows for no hidden agendas with friends sharing with one another genuine emotions, needs, and joys.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expresses gratitude for the concern and aid shown him writing that it's good for others to share in his troubles. With authentic, emotional appeal, Paul also pleads for his young companion Timothy to do his best to come quickly because another co-worker, Demas, has deserted him. (2 Timothy 4:9-13) "Only Luke is with me," he writes. "Get Mark and bring him...when you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments."
Luke, Paul's travel companion, shares one particularly tender moment of transparency in Acts 20. Preparing to leave Ephesus for Jerusalem, Paul encourages church leaders to continue in their work. He kneels down with all of them and prays. Realizing they will never see each other again and bidding farewell, they weep and embrace one another, finally tearing "ourselves away from them we put out to sea."
Today's technologically-oriented, internet-savvy, linkedin/twitter/facebook, social-media society can create a false impression that friendships can develop without experiencing face-to-face encounters. While I thoroughly enjoy aspects of the internet helping me stay in contact with friends, there is no substitution for personal, face-to-face time for a relationship to mature.
During His time on earth, Jesus dedicated three years teaching and mentoring a group of twelve men. Returning from a preaching experience, excited to share all they had done and taught, Jesus tells the twelve, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31)
Friendship. A gift from God that's blessed in every part, born through love and loyalty, conceived within the heart. Celebrate the blessing of friendship with someone who has filled your life with its precious joys.
Blessings, my friend.