God created us to be relational creatures. Friendships are an important aspect of a fulfilling life, and we learn about love, forgiveness, and grace when we become close with others. When we choose our friends with wisdom and discernment, we are adding joyful and healthy relationships to our lives.
The Scriptures are full of great friendships. One of these great friendships was between Jonathan and David. Jonathan was the son of King Saul, who hunted David and hated him. Jonathan was a loyal friend to David, closer than a brother, and his loyalty exceeded that of his loyalty to his father (1 Samuel 18:1–4; 20:12–17). David's life was saved by Jonathan, and when Jonathan died, David wrote a psalm of lament for his dearest friend (2 Samuel 1:18–27). In the New Testament, Paul often wrote to his friends who encouraged him, prayed for him, and took care of him. These friends were integral to Paul's journey and mission. The Bible encourages friends to rebuke one another in love (Ephesians 4:15), pray for each other and keep each other accountable (James 5:16). Friendships are an important part of a Christian's journey.
However, our journeys with others are not always comfortable or easy. Friendships can leave us disappointed, hurt, and cause us grief. Our friendships are sometimes intimate enough to sway our beliefs and actions. An extreme example of this is found in the Old Testament, when Jonadab persuades Amnon to rape his half-sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1–6). There are also examples of friends leading each other to worship false idols in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 13:6–11). Proverbs holds many warnings about friendships, including being aware of gossip breaking down relationships (Proverbs 16:28) and grudges weighing them down (Proverbs 17:9). Toxic friendships are not just confined to the Old Testament. One of the most well-known friendship betrayals occurred when Judas betrayed Christ, assuredly causing Christ grief and emotional pain. Paul warned the church of choosing friends wisely because "bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV).
The Scriptures are clear on the blessing of friendships, but they are also clear on the discernment required to choose good friends (Proverbs 1:10–19; 4:14–19). We should choose friends who do not entice us to sin or worship anything aside from God. We should choose friends who follow the path of righteousness and are quick to run to God. Like all relationships, we must be wise in whom we choose to spend our time with and who will help us become closer to God.
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