Growing up, my mom always said if you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend. And she was right. Proverbs 18:24 says that “a man who has friends must himself be friendly.”
Now that I have kids of my own, I hear a lot about ‘having friends’ … or not ‘having friends,’ who’s friends with who, who’s not friends at all, and so and on so forth depending on what’s going on in the world of junior high and high school. And in return, I hear myself saying those same words my mom used to tell me.
“Nobody talked to me.”
“Well, did you talk to anybody? If you want to have a friend, you have to…”
“You have to be a friend. We know, Mom. We know.”
The problem with friends is that all of us, at one time or another get wrapped up in treating the word friend as if it’s something that happens to us. Or as if it’s a response that we choose to give… or withhold. When actually, friends is something we should be doing for others at all times.
The word friend is Germanic in origin (as most of our English words are) and has been in the English language since its early beginnings in Old English. Originally, ‘friend’ existed as ‘freond’ which was the present participle of the verb ‘freon,’ meaning ‘to love.’ The root of the verb was ‘fri-’ which meant ‘to like, love, or be affectionate to.’
In other words, in its origins, the word friend describes action… the act of showing love or affection for another.
Proverbs 17: 17 agrees. It says that a friend loves. LOVES. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is very specific about love and what it should look like. If we insert the word friend into that verse, this is what we get:
A friend is patient and kind, not jealous. A friend does not compete or compare. A friend is not boastful, haughty, or arrogant in order to raise herself above others. A friend is not rude. She does not act unbecomingly. A friend does not insist on her own rights or her own way. A friend is not selfish. She is not touchy, fretful, or resentful. A friend pays no attention to a suffered wrong. A friend does not rejoice in the downfall of others, but is happy when truth and right prevail. A friend bears up under all and everything that comes along. A friend is ever ready to believe the best of every person. A friend’s hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and a friend endures everything without weakening.
Furthermore, Romans 12: 9-21 says our love for others should be without hypocrisy. It should be sincere, the real thing. It reminds us that we should rejoice when someone else succeeds and weep when they weep.
Wow. How many of our relationships would change if this was what we put into them? In how many of our relationships can we say that we are acting as a true friend?
The thing is just having your own group or simply hanging out with the people you know is not what it’s really all about. Being a friend is about purposefully loving those around you. Who are you a friend to? Deuteronomy 10:18-19 commands that we should love the stranger, as does Leviticus 19:34. Matthew 5:44 says that we are to love our enemies. Are you a friend to all you meet, or to only those whom you like or those whom you feel deserve it? Or do you just simply respond to other’s people’s behavior?
The word friend is not about us, how we feel, or even what we are or are not receiving. The word friend focuses on the act of loving others more than we love ourselves (John 15:12-13). The real joy of friends comes from that. The old adage of it’s better to give than to receive is so true. Not everyone will return your friendliness, and that’s okay. Their actions shouldn’t change who you are and what you do. But a sincere and active love for others will cultivate relationships that really matter with those who need or desire it.
Some of the most inspiring friendships of the Bible were based on one person’s genuine love for another. Consider Naomi and Ruth, Elijah and Elisha, Jonathan and David, Jesus and His disciples. And what about the friends who tore through a roof just to make sure the paralytic man saw Jesus. You never know if the love you show is just the thing someone else is needing to bring them to the feet of Christ and into a fulfilling relationship with Him.
So, when it comes to friends, the question really isn’t if have you one, it’s whether or not you are one.
Some of you may read this and instead of feeling inspired to go out and be friendly, you might feel plain ol’ lonely. The things I am talking about might seem so out of reach and your hurts might be so deep that you aren’t sure how to even begin adopting a friendly outlook. The good news of Grace is that you already have a friend even if you don’t feel Him or know Him. Proverbs 18:24 goes on to say that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and He is here for you. He died just to be your friend. To learn more, click here.
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To read more about the friendships listed above, see:
Ruth and Naomi: Ruth 1-4
Elisha and Elijah: 2 Kings 2: 1-14
Jonathan and David: 1 Samuel 18:1-4, 1 Samuel 20
Jesus and His disciples: John 15: 13-15