A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Here are two rules for friendship – friends require friendliness, and good friends are better than family. Many make excuses for their lack of friends, but the proper conduct to get friends and keep them is not difficult. Here also is a hint of the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Friend of His people, who will never leave or forsake them (Heb 13:5-6).
Friendly people have all the friends they want. A gracious man will have the king trying to be his friend (Pr 22:11), and a gracious woman will always be esteemed (Pr 11:16). To make friends or keep friends, a person has to be friendly. When there is a shortage of friends, it proves a person is not friendly. Though such persons may think and tell you that they are friendly, they have character or personality traits that drive others away.
This rule hurts, but it is true as gravity. A lack of friends indicates problems getting along with others. A goal in Solomon’s Proverbs is for you to grow in favor with God and men, which is a choice on your part to have desirable character and conduct (Pr 3:1-4; 22:1; 27:9; 16:24,28; 17:9). Even enemies can be won by good conduct (Pr 16:7). So if you do not have many friends, look into Proverbs’ mirror and find your blemishes (Jas 1:21-25).
Friends love at all times, not just in good times; they are not fair weather friends (Pr 17:17). Friends give more than they take, and they do not worry about what they get (I Sam 18:3-4; 23:16). Friends give hearty counsel, not haughty advice (Pr 27:9). Friends think the best and bear the worst (I Co 13:4-7). Friends are always gracious (Pr 22:11).
Friends sharpen each other, even if it requires correcting or rebuking (Pr 27:6,17; Ps 141:5). Friends are intimate (Ex 33:11; Deut 13:6). They communicate openly (Jn 15:15). Friends show pity in affliction (Job 6:14; Ps 35:14). They trust each other (Ps 41:9). Friends rejoice in blessings (Luke 15:6; John 3:29). Where do you fail, dear reader?
Friends do not give advice before it is needed, allow you to sin against God, meddle in private matters, presume on your time, think about getting rather than giving, share secrets, trivialize matters, have pride, remember past faults, have self-righteousness, or claim rights to affection. Have you offended in any of these ways? Repent; change today.
Exceptional friends are rare. If they were common, they would not be special. Great friends are better than family, for they will stick closer than any mere blood relative. Your brothers did not choose you, but true friends chose you for good and noble reasons. They will be with you and for you, when your brother has moved on in his own life.
David and Jonathan were such friends. David valued Jonathan’s love more than that of women (II Sam 1:26). His own brothers disdained him, but Jonathan loved him as his own soul (I Sam 16:1-13; 17:28; 18:1-4). So they made a binding covenant together that affected their own lives and those of their descendants as well, if the other died first.
When you find such a friend, do all you can to keep him. Diligently avoid offences, and clear them quickly if they occur (Pr 18:19; Matt 5:23-25). An excellent friend may be inherited from your father (Pr 27:10). When in trouble, you want to use this friend rather than family, for he will always be nearby in affection and be honored to help you.
Christians should make the best friends among themselves, for blood is thicker than blood; that is, Jesus Christ’s blood is thicker than any family blood bond. Consider the love of the Spirit (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37). If agreement is necessary to walk together, then agreement in the gospel creates a wonderful relationship (Amos 3:3; Phil 1:3-5).
The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Friend of God’s people, did more than any friend – He laid down his life for them, when they were His enemies (John 15:13; Rom 5:8). What brother would do that for you? He now lives for His friends and will not lose a single one of them in time or eternity. Let Jesus Christ alone be the perfect fulfillment here!