You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin—to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours—closer than you yourself keep it. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. -Merry Brandybuck, The Fellowship of The Ring
I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings. This classic is known for its beautiful allegorical style with many theological themes running throughout. The battle of good versus evil and the triumph of humility over pride through repentance are the most prominent. But one of my favorite themes threaded throughout The Lord of the Rings is the importance of friendship with its emphasis on genuine fellowship, mercy, and self-sacrifice.
The Importance of Friendship
Friends are important. Our friendships vary from person to person. Some may have a wide range of friendships and others just a close inner circle of friends. For many of us, some of our friendships are stronger and deeper than family relationships. We have friends who know us better than anyone else—sometimes they know us better than we know ourselves. As Anne Shirley would say, these are our “bosom friends”; and C.S. Lewis said that these kinds of friends “…give value to survival.”
While books and quotes on friendship are abounding, the Bible also speaks about friends and provides wisdom we should apply to our friendships, especially our most trusted ones. What’s more, the Bible gives us examples of deep friendships. We see this in the relationships of David and Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:42), Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2), and Paul and Timothy (1 Cor. 4:17). Ultimately though, Jesus is our purest example of a true friend. We read throughout the Gospels about his close friendships with the disciples, especially John, and his dear friends Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. We also know that Jesus calls us his friends (John 15:14-15).
So, what does a true Christian friendship look like?
1. Christian friendship is loving and sacrificial, even in difficult times:
- A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Prov. 17:17).
- A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).
- This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Great love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13).
I have one friend in particular who’s been my most trusted friend for almost twenty years now. She’s the one who sacrifices what little time she has and gives generously of her resources to help others in need—and she never wants recognition for it. She’s helped me on numerous occasions when I was under pressure or had a lot on my plate. She’s the one who’s driven hours upon hours to help me pack and move many times over the years of our friendship.
2. Christian friends encourage one another
- A joyful heart is good medicine… (Prov. 17:22)
- …the sweetness of a friend comes from his early counsel (Prov. 27:9).
- Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up (Eccles. 4:9-10)!
- Now Job’s three friends hear of all that had come upon him… They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him (Job 2:11).
My friend who loves me sacrificially is also my greatest encourager. She remembers important dates, the ones to be celebrated and the ones to honor because of their pain. When I’m sad, she listens, but she also makes me laugh like no other!
3. Christian friends speak truth, even the hard things, to help each other look more like Christ
- Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (Prov. 19:20).
- Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds from a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy (Prov. 27:5-6).
- Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another (Prov. 27:17).
My friend never minces her words. She knows how to speak the truth in love to me—even when I don’t want to hear it in the moment. And I’ve had to speak the truth in love to her a few times as well. We know to call each other out when we’re being sinful. That’s what true friends do; we must be more concerned about each other’s holiness than we are about hurt feelings. We also have the best conversations, the kind that make us think, grow, and be better because they sharpen us in a godly way.
4. Christian friends forgive one another
- Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (Col. 3:12-14).
- Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times, saying, “I repent,” you must forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).
While I love my friend dearly, I must confess that I have wounded her—and not in the way Proverbs 27:5 describes. Indeed, I can be very selfish, and at times my words and actions have hurt my friend. I hate when I sin against anyone but especially this friend. I am grateful that she is always quick to forgive.
The Gift of Friendship
The verses and examples above are not exhaustive, but I hope they remind you that friendship is a gift; a blessing that should reflect Christ. Maybe you need to take some time to evaluate your friendships against the verses above and other parts of Scripture. Or maybe you need to reach out to that friend who loves you like a brother and encourage him or her today. Whatever it is the Lord is prompting you to do, be sure to thank him for the friends he’s given you!