Have you noticed how many things are disposable now? It seems that the world around us is dominated by throw away items. Sadly, this does not only include products, but people as well. You can walk down a crowded street and as you look into the eyes of many of those you pass you can see loneliness and despair. The term “throw away” is commonly used to describe people in our world today. Friendship is one thing that should never be thought of as disposable. In Ecclesiastes 4: 8-12 it tells us “There was a man alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless – a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” As we can see from this passage, loneliness is not a new feeling and the joy and benefits of friendship are well documented.
In Genesis 2: 18 it states “The Lord God said ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.” From the beginning God recognized the importance of companionship. Not only did God create families because of our need for others but he has also placed other people in our lives for companionship and fellowship. In fact, one of the key reasons for the church’s existence is for like-minded believers to share their lives together. We share not only the joys of life but we can draw strength from these fellow believers in our times of need.
Proverbs 17:17a says “A friend loves at all times.” A true friend is someone who knows our faults and loves us anyway. Some people want to claim to be friends but offer only a superficial type of friendship. These people are friends as long as it serves their purpose but when you have a need they are suddenly absent. These people practice “throw away” or disposable friendship. A good friend has seen you at your worst and still values you as a person. A good friend sticks by you even when you have made a mistake. Proverbs 18: 24b says “but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” A good friend stands by you even when it’s not easy to do.
Probably one of the greatest demonstrations of friendship in the New Testament is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:30-35 tells us “In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” This is an important parable in that the men of “religion” did not have time to take care of the man who had been robbed, beaten and thrown away. More importantly, Jews and Samaritans did not get along and there was racial tension between the two. Yet the Samaritan is the one who stops and cares for the Jewish man. Not only did he stop and provide assistance, he takes the man to an inn and paid the expenses. Jesus is giving us a vivid example of what He means by friendship and caring one for another.
Selection of friends is critical to our success in every sense of the word. Proverbs 27: 17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Are you selecting friends that challenge you to grow in knowledge and in spirit? Are you surrounding yourself with people that can keep you spiritually strong and lift you up in prayer in your times of need? A good friend has as his or her objective to build you up, not tear you down. Good friends have a way of bringing out the best in us. Sometimes they have to make us aware of things we are blind to or we choose to ignore to help us become a better person. Proverbs 27: 6 says “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” A friend tells us what we need to hear not what we want to hear.
Most of us have at least one good friend and some have been blessed with many friends. But there is one friend we must not overlook. His name is Jesus. Have you ever thought about Jesus as your personal friend? So often religion wants to describe Him in such a way that we think His friendship is unattainable. Scripture clearly shows us there is nothing further from the truth. You remember the verse we looked at earlier from Proverbs that said “but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This is how Jesus wants to be viewed. He is the very essence of this description; a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Even if everyone in the world turned their back on you, Jesus will be there with you and for you. He demonstrated that when He went to the cross and paid yours and my sin debt. John 15: 13 says “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” He was sinless yet He willingly died a sinner’s death for you and me. He knew every flaw and every quirk we have, before he went to the cross, and He still paid the price.
But how do we know that Jesus thinks of us as His friend. Well, once again we go to scripture and we see that in John 15: 15 Jesus says “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his masters business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” You see friends are open and honest with one another. They share things that are private and we would not want our acquaintances to ever find out. This is the kind of relationship God wants with you.
Unfortunately, all too often this relationship becomes a one way friendship. God holds up His end of the bargain but when it comes to us, we are constantly saying “I love you God but…” We expect God to be there for us any time we need Him but when He needs us we seem to forget about our part of the friendship. Isn’t it amazing how we can expect God to respond to our needs immediately but find every reason imaginable to get out of doing what God asks us to do for Him? In John 15: 14 Jesus says “You are my friends if you do what I command.” In other words, this friendship cannot work if we expect God to give and we only give when it’s convenient. A friendship is a give and take proposition and it is no different in our friendship with God. Otherwise we are treating our friendship with God as Disposable.