Friendship—Connecting of two People

God models Friendship

The opening lines of the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” capture it.

What a Friend we have in Jesus,

  All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

  Everything to God in prayer!

How Does This Connecting Begin?

I have often considered this question.  Friendship often begins “accidentally.” My parents decided to move to the farm when I was seven. That move resulted in a friendship between me and a WWII veteran of 35 who ran his parent’s farm next to ours. Yes, I was seven, and he was thirty-five. It was a friendship that most would call a mentorship—rather like a big brother/big sister promoted our culture. However, it was more than a mentorship. Danny was a friend. There were dimensions of this mentorship that made it a relationship—for example, one day when I was about ten years old. A late afternoon rainstorm was fast approaching, as often happened in Southeast Pennsylvania.  Danny looked at me and said, “Sonny, are you ready to handle that tractor with the bailer? If you are, I’ll work the wagon and stack the bails. Otherwise, I’ll lose that cutting of Alfa.” I had driven the tract before, but not with a bailer. “I said yes!” We got the job done.

Our senior year in college, Pam and I stood in a line waiting for the Dean to sign off on our taking extra hours. That was a slow line, and she and I talked for over an hour. We had casually known each other for over three years in college but had never had a conversation. That conversation led to our first date, which cemented our friendship that led to our marriage. She had been my lifelong friend (61 years).

Some years ago, I met Shirley. A friend suggested I ask her to help me run a conference. She agreed and has been running conferences for me annually since. We have developed a friendship, as she and my wife have also done. We refer to one another as my sister, my brother. We work on other projects together. I call her for advice, and she calls me. Sometimes my wife fixes lunch, and Shirley comes to our home, and we meet over lunch, and Pam is part of the working team as well as the friendship.

Sometimes a friendship grows out of a crisis. Kevin and I were part of an organization that developed a leadership crisis. Previously we knew who each other was—say a professional acquiesce.  We both got drafted to assist the organization with a reorganization process. This task has taken five years. The process has required traveling together and monthly, sometimes more often, meetings. He has met my wife since she sometimes travels with me, but I have yet to meet his wife.  The foundation of the friendship has been very akin worldviews, similar interests, prayer, extraordinary openness of communication, and a good mix of personalities.

But the crisis brought us together to work together through difficult and delicate situations.  A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly (Pr. 18:24)

How Is Friendship Sustained?

This question can have a complicated answer, but I prefer a simple answer seen in three relationships in the Bible.

Abraham and God

Abraham is known as the friend of God (Gen 18:1-8). While he stumbled several times along the way, he was faithful in his commitment to trust God. Friendship takes trust even though you stumble. We can first learn from Abraham that he became God’s friend through faith.

David and Jonathan

We are told their souls were knit together (I Sam 18:1). Just what does that mean?  It means a wholesome affection plus a commitment to care exemplified in sacrifice.  The ERV puts it this way, “When David finished speaking with Saul, Jonathan became a close friend to David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.” 

My best friend was David King. I met him the night I became a Christian. On one occasion, he, I, and his brother were talking, and they agreed that David and I were closer than the two of them. His brother was also my friend, but there was a depth to our relationship that exceeded blood. Along the way, we introduced him to his wife, I did the ceremony. We supported them on the mission field for seventeen years. He died a forty-eight. 

Jesus and the Eleven

Jesus teaches us by example with these eleven that friendship is sustained by seeking out one another when there is drifting and taking the initiative to restore the relationship. He demonstrates this as the offended one seeking to restore the relationship (John 21).

Paul and Timothy

Yes, Paul was Timothy’s mentor, but Paul’s expressions of affection and the manner of encouragement clearly indicate that their relationship was a friendship. It indicates that age differences are not a necessary barrier to a friendship and a stinging of a friendship.

There Are Concentric Circles to Friendships 

There is a concentric circle complex of friendships. There are acquaintances. There are casual friends. There are colleague friends—the guy or gal in the next cubical at work.  Each one has certain privileges and limitations. However, each of these can develop into a cohesive friendship.

What makes the difference? Preferences, faith commitments, philosophical commitments, and the quirkiness of attraction all play a part, and yet all these are not necessarily dividing lines, though some may generate certain limitations. 


What is the bottom line of this blog? It is this. As noted above, to have a friend, you must be a friend. If you desire a friend, you must love (agape) that person.  Loving a person does not mean they will become your friend, but you will have been a friend. Some years ago, we had a cantankerous neighbor. One morning we woke up to two-plus feet of snow.  I dressed and shoveled my driveway just as the country snowplow came by. Right in front of his driveway, the plow dropped a pile of snow off the end of the plow. The Lord nudged me to assist him after I completed shoveling my driveway. So, I did. I loved my neighbor, but he did not respond with a “Thank you.” He did not become my friend.

Do a friendship check today. Review your friendships and observe how the Lord brought them into your life. Are you lonely? Then ask yourself, “Am I being a friend? 

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