By James Sanders
Friendship is one of the more noble treasures of life. There is nothing quite like a good friend. When adversity strikes, the good friend is constant. He is the same whether we are in wealth or in need: “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). Friendship improves happiness and abates misery. It doubles our joy and divides our grief (Addison). Two are better than one.
Comfort and Candor
Friends are for comfort but friends are also for candor: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6). There is a sincere frankness’ between friends-a frankness tempered with tenderness. Friendship is something that is built through a labor of love. It is the work of a lifetime. We are bound to other men by every ‘sort of tie: by blood, by fear, by admiration, and by circumstances. But friendship finds its bonds in the tenderness of the heart. Friends are truthful. The friend who will not openly rebuke us is not worth the name. And the man who gives counsel without respecting our feelings, likewise is not our friend.
Close friendships are rare and therefore the more precious. Jonathan’s friendship for David was an once-in-alifetime blessing for both. Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul (1 Sam. 20:16). And when Jonathan died, David lamented, “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Sam. 1:26). The death of Jonathan was an irreparable loss. David never again had another friend like Jonathan. “The loss of a friend is like that of a limb; time may heal the anguish of the wound, but the loss cannot be repaired” (Southey). Close friends are rare and are few. A host of acquaintances is not what helps us. A few close friends are better and stand in a class by themselves: “A man of many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24, NASB).
Warmth and Joy
The warmth of friendship is the best blessing of all. There is that healthy clash between friends which invigorates the soul: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). Friendship is too good to be believed. Remember how your heart leaped the last time you saw the face of an old friend you had not seen in years? Remember your laughter and your tears-and how time itself seemed to stand still? There was neither Winter nor night as both of you relived the memories of the past. This is friendship and friendship at its best. Heaven will be like’ this. When we cross the River of Death, our friends will be on the other shore to welcome us. “At last!” they will shout. But no one will weep for there are no tears in that country (Rev. 21:4). Friendship sharpens the countenance. Friendship touches the heart and makes nobler men of us all. Friendship is one of God’s good gifts.
Because friendship is precious, it needs to be cherished. We take care of our health; we lay up our money and make our roof tight. But we neglect the best property of all-our friends. Friendship must be cherished. It is worthy of respect. It is worthy of courtesy. It is worthy of tact. There are certain bounds beyond which not even a good friend should venture. It is easy to outstay our welcome in more ways than one: “Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee” (Prov. 25:17). Friendship needs to be cherished and never betrayed. The disgrace of Judas lies in that he betrayed a good friend. His deed has ever since lived in infamy. Not even the soldiers who crucified Christ are remembered like Judas. Friendship is a sacred trust.
(Credit should be paid to Derek Kidner, The Proverbs. His comments were most illuminating. The essay, “Friendship,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson was also rich with suggestions. Some of the thoughts and words I used were from the pen of Emerson.)