People of God, we continue our study in Proverbs. These next two Sundays we are going to concentrate on two big themes that we see in the Wisdom of King Solomon: the themes of friendship and hospitality. As we continue to grow as a Church, it is important to consider once again those basics of life in the Christian community. We delved into these two topics some years ago, and they were crucial in establishing the culture we have now, and they will be crucial in establishing the culture we will have in the future.
Today we are going to look at selected passages from Proverbs, and consider the topic of biblical friendship with some practical observations.
This sermon is crucial as our children grow in this culture, and as we adults learn to cultivate friendship in a more effective way.
One of the evidences that we live in a degenerate culture is the fact “that we practice so little genuine biblical friendship,” said Steve Wilkins.Community life is already difficult by its very nature, and it is accentuated by an attitude of some who say they don’t need friends.
A few years ago I was discussing with a young man the type of vision we have at Providence Church for community life and accountability. I never forgot his response: “Pastor, to tell you the truth I am looking for a Church where I can just sneak in and sneak out.” Not many people will express themselves this bluntly, but that mindset is still very much a part of American evangelicalism. “If I keep people far then I will have less to deal with, and fewer people to stop me from sinning.” Again, Steve Wilkins writes:
“Whenever a society tolerates sin and covenant-breaking, loneliness becomes a common problem within that society, and its citizens begin to think of true friends as a luxury, not as a necessity.”
Proverbs 27:9 says “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” A friend is one who counsels and whose words reflect wisdom from above. We need this wisdom to become Kings and Queens in the Kingdom of our Lord. Friendship is not a luxury, but a necessity.
Kingly wisdom demands that we surround ourselves with good friends who fear God, and who love wisdom. In life, a man or a woman will have two or three good friends. There will be others with whom we will befriend, but only to a certain extent. If you pursue friendship—as I am exhorting you to—God will place in your life two or three friends who will stick closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). These are the people you need to shape you. These are the people you can trust. These are the people who will help you mature in your faith. Isolated people suffer. Isolated Christians are reflecting the culture of hell more than the culture of heaven. Because in hell, loneliness prevails. But Heaven produces healthy communities. When we pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we are praying that God would establish a community of love, peace, and friendship on earth just as that is already practived in heaven.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
After whom you will marry and whom will you worship, the next most important question you will ask is “Whom will I spend my time?”
Just as we become like the One we worship, we have a tendency to become like those we spend time.
Throughout the Scriptures we are given admonition that we are to choose our friends very carefully. If you want to be a wise man you have to look for wise people to spend time with. If you allow a fool to choose you as a friend, you will be destroyed. If you choose a fool as a friend, you will be destroyed.
Who are the ones you are clocking the most amount of time with?
As parents we are very cautious about the types of friends our children spend time with. We are cautious because we know that sin is contagious, and when our children spend time with those who do not fear the Lord, then that lack of fear spreads to our children as well. Listen to the words of Proverbs 22:
Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The context of the famous “train up a child” proverb has to do with guarding our children from those whose ways are crooked. This applies to our little ones and to our teens as well. Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that we are not to have any friendship with unbelievers or immature families with immature children, what I am saying is that you need to count the cost. In other words, it is one thing to spend some time with unbelieving relatives and their children, it is another thing to say these people will be constantly a part of my day to day activities.
Keep in mind these are general principles, and there are exceptions and circumstances that we may not have as much control over. When considering friends, we need to have a few categories in mind.
First, we want friends who have similar loyalties. What is he or she committed to? Do they share similar world-views? Do they joke almost in a mocking fashion your passion for truth and biblical living? If they do, they are not candidates for lasting friendship. Enduring friendship works best when there are chief loyalties. There is more to friendship than someone you have a good time with; there are issues of loyalty that need to be considered.
Secondly, limit the number of friends that you have. Proverbs 18:24 says that “A man of many friends come to ruin.” Why is this the case? This is because you can only give so much of yourself to others and they to you. This calls us to consider and choose our friends with even greater care.
The next question we need to consider is “What kind of persons will you select as a friend.” You need to be active and not passive in your friend selection. Think of King Solomon’s Father, David who wrote “I am a companion of those who fear you and keep your precepts.”
a) A friend will fear the Lord. This is the basic commitment you must look for in a friend. You cannot have a lasting friend as someone who despises the God you worship. Again, you become increasingly like the people you surround yourself.
b) You need someone who treasures loyalty. You want a loyal friend when things are tough. As Proverbs 18 says, “someone who is closer than a brother.” When bad times come, those few friends are engaged with you and walking with you through the midst of it. Loyalty is not something rewarded in our culture today. If we want loyal friends we have to demonstrate loyalty ourselves. We can’t expect that loyal friends will come knocking at our door. We need to live loyal lives: Loyalty to our families, our churches, and to our God.
c) Next, you need to select friends that desire accountability. Friends stand up to you when you want to sin. Proverbs 27 says: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Do you want a flatterer as a friend? Someone who will always say nice things about you, but never tell you to stop acting like a fool? If you want to be self-deceived than look for these people, but if you want to grow as a Christian, look for those who will keep you accountable.
d) Also, you also want friends who are forgiving and confidential. We need friends who are willing to let love cover, and confide without fear of them gossiping or using your words against you. Gossip shatters friendship, whereas confidentiality strengthens them. Guard your lips. Keep counsel. Know when to keep your mouth shut. There may be times when confidentiality needs to be broken, especially when certain sins transgress the purity of the church, or break the laws of the state, but the harder gift is that of keeping matters confidential for the sake of the reputation of one another.
But once we select a friend, how do we keep them? Sometimes geography hinders us from close friendships, but I have also seen people thousands of miles apart maintain a remarkably strong biblical friendship.
You maintain a friendship when you realize that he or she wants to be more like you and you more like them. The best friendships are preserved on a mutual admiration for each other’s purity and love for that which is true.The king chooses man around him who loves righteousness and hates evil. This is our model also, and foundational to preserving friendships.
Now that you have a friend or two or three,
a) Be constant in our loyalty. To have a friend is to understand you have an obligation towards that person, but it’s not a blank check. Don’t misunderstand loyalty for allowing another to use you as he/she pleases. There is a mutual give and take in friendship. But an important element of constancy in loyalty is that friends risk confrontation. They are bold to point out certain blatant sins or patterns that are developing. This is not an easy task, and so it is not practiced much in our day. Loyalty demands confrontation. But loyalty also recognizes that silence can be a very good alternative at times. You don’t have to confront everything. Sometimes you need to allow love to cover; to give some time for people to learn from their mistakes, and grow as a result. There is a time to confront, and there is a time to be silent. Kingly wisdom discerns.
b) Finally, show consideration. This means cultivating proper manners. Don’t overlook a friend’s kindness simply because you think that’s to be expected. Share what you have. Buy them a meal. Take them out to a movie and buy them those monstrous sized popcorn bags. Thank them. Surprise them with a wonderful bottle of wine. Manners do not make relationships artificial, they make relationships civil. Manners make society livable. Another element to consider is to be aware of overwhelming them with attention. Give friends room to breathe and to come to their own conclusions at times, even though that conclusion may differ from yours. Be aware of their time and their priorities. Proverbs 25 says: “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” This is an important principle. Sometimes people need their privacy. Sometimes people need to turn off their cell phones for half a day. Sometimes people need to take a break from their e-mails. Be constant and considerate towards one another.
How Now Shall We Then Live?
Are you this type of friend? Are you considerate? Constant? Discerning whether it’s time to confront or be silent? “We are called to be all these things, and only by adopting these virtues will we be profitable friends to others.”
Or a more basic question: Do you treasure your loneliness? Do you not have someone you call a close friend? If so, why is this the case? This demands a form of self-examination. Do you make unreasonable demands upon others? If you do, don’t be surprised that people do not befriend you. “Do not assume that their selfishness is the cause. As Steve Wilkins puts it: “You are not the only other person in the world, and your friends have many demands from many different people.”
Finally, do you want this kind of friend I have described? Or are you simply content in surrounding yourselves with fools or friends who offer you no grounds to grow in your Christian walk? If you do not have true friends, seek them. Don’t settle for superficial relationships.
Men, seek other men who cherish Jesus, who are not embarrassed by Jesus and His words, and who desire to know Him more. Women, you do the same with other women.
No one can find a perfect friend. We are all prone to disappointing one another. But the beauty of imperfect friends is that if they know they are imperfect they will labor together with you to pursue maturity and wisdom.
Our ultimate friend is the One who has united us to Himself, Jesus Christ. Fear, loyalty, love of purity, gracious speech, considerate, all these things are embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the friend that is closer than a brother. Jesus loved us as a friend and laid down his life that we might be forgiven. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. Use the befriending of God in Jesus Christ as a model for how to befriend others, and in due time you will reflect that beautiful friendship that is to be prevalent in the Church of our Lord who through His resurrection elevated His friends to a place of honor.
In The Name of the Father, and of the So
 Face to Face: Meditations on Friendship and Hospitality, 9.
 Source not mentioned.
 Face to face, 9.
 Depending also on some excellent observations from my friend, Rev. Joost Nixon on the nature of friendship. See wordmp3.com
 Psalm 119:63
 Again, thanks to Joost Nixon for these helpful summaries.
 Wilkins, 52.