Thursday, August 25, 2011

MrsDrPoe: True Friendship

Welcome to Theology Thursday here at the blog! I invite you all to open your Bibles with me today as well examine what true friendship looks like according to the word of God.

At any given time in our lives, each of us has had one or more persons that could be called a friend; these people are definitely blessings from God and a great encouragement through life's trials. Although we form these friendships in various places and through various circumstances, each of these relationships shares that we have something in common with and enjoy the company of our friend. We must ask ourselves, however, do our friends exhibit the qualities that true friends should? And do we exhibit these qualities toward our friends? To determine what a true friend should be, we should examine some Biblical examples of friendship.

If we look in 1 Kings 12:1-15, we see the children of Israel requesting of King Rehoboam to reduce the heavy burdens that his father (King Solomon) had placed on them. Before making a decision, Rehoboam sought counsel from the elders who served his father; they told him to grant the people's request. Rehoboam didn't like this answer; however, so he further sought the counsel of his friends that he had grown up with. These friends advised him to not only deny the people's request but to further increase their burden. Rehoboam approved of this answer and, as a result, later lost the majority of his kingdom to Jeroboam (as was prophesied).

If we go back a little further in the Old Testament to 2 Sam 13, we see one of King David's sons, Amnon, who lusted after his half-sister, Tamar. Just like Rehoboam, Amnon had a friend named Jonadab who told him exactly what he wanted to hear. Jonadab helped Amnon devise a plan that allowed Amnon to physically take advantage of Tamar, humbling her, disgracing the royal family, and eventually leading to the murder of Amnon.

Were the friends of Rehoboam and Amnon good friends? The world would say, "Of course! They helped give them what they wanted. They helped make them happy (at least for a little while)." Solomon would disagree in Proverbs 1, however. In this passage, the wise old king tells his son to avoid the companionship of those who would entice and encourage sinful behavior, contrasting their calls for friendship with the call of wisdom to be holy and seek the Lord.

We must conclude then that true friendship should be anchored by more than a common workplace/sports team/hobby. To be a good friend, one must keep another's spiritual well-being in mind. If we have a friend who is lusting after a woman/man not his/her wife/husband, the 'friendly' thing to do is to help them overcome these sinful thoughts through prayer, Bible study, counseling, etc. The 'unfriendly' thing to do is outlined in the 2 Samuel passage we just examined. Similarly, if we are the ones lusting, a true friend would help us overcome this sin NOT encourage us to continue in it.

Look with me at 2 Samuel 12. In this passage, the prophet, Nathan, comes before King David to tell him a parable about a rich man who steals a lamb from a poor man who loved the lamb as his family; outraged at the injustice, David vows to kill the rich man. Nathan then tells David that he is the rich man and that the parable is a parallel to what he had done to Uriah and Bathsheba. Even though he was speaking to the king, Nathan had the courage to point out his sin as God had sent him to do. Unlike the friends of Rehoboam and Amnon, Nathan was a true friend to David.

So what's the best way to be a good friend? If our friend is not a Christian, we can invite him/her to Bible study, introducing him/her to Jesus and allowing His teaching throughout the New Testament to point out the sin in their lives. If our friend is a Christian, Matt 18, 1 Cor 5, and 2 Thess 3 tell us that sin in the church must be addressed; and if it is not remedied, withdrawal is required.

It's really hard to be a true friend. I've never known anyone who particularly enjoys confrontations, and telling someone what he/she wants to hear is a lot less confrontational that telling that same person that what he/she is doing or wants to do is wrong. No one desires the social stigma associated with one who's labeled as "nosy," "rude," or "intolerant." And of course it's always difficult to determine the best way to approach a sinful situation- we don't want to hurt or embarrass our friends. But we must remember that our friends' souls are more important than an awkward moment or temporary strain on/loss of a friendship.


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