My good friend called me early yesterday morning, tearfully reporting to me the news of a mutual friend’s sudden death. I was saddened to hear the news of this lady’s death, but my friend, having been much closer to her, was devastated.

As she shared her heart about the last few years of their friendship, she was questioning herself as to whether or not she’d been a good friend to her. Our friend (I’ll call her Jane) had struggled in recent years with the same kinds of things we all struggle with, and my friend had faithfully spoken the truth to her, even when it was hard; even when Jane did not like what she was hearing. There had been times of strain in the friendship because of this, but overall, my friend loved Jane with all her heart, and desired the best for her. As I reassured her that she had been a good friend to Jane, I began to ponder what this really means. Knowing that the Bible has all the answers, and offers everything we need to know to be a godly friend, I went there and found three passages that address what it means to be a good friend. There are many other passages, but these struck a chord with me.

A Friend Helps

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. (Eccl 4: 9&10)

I believe one of the reasons God created friendship was so that we could help each other. If one of us falls down, the other can help her up. This is true in the literal sense, as well as in the spiritual sense. If my friend falls into unbelief, hopelessness, fear, or any of the other troubles that plague us as humans, I can help her up as she opens her heart to me for encouragement and discipleship. If she falls into sin, I can help her through rebuke and exhortation, pointing her back to Christ through repentance. I can hold her accountable, and stay after her until she gets back on the right path. I have experienced this process from both directions, and I know that it works.

A Friend Shows Kindness

“To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, Even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” (Job 6:14)

The greatest kindness Job’s friends showed was when they first arrived, sat down with him, and didn’t speak a word because they saw that “his grief was great.” Sometimes we experience trials as a result of our own sin, but sometimes trials come when we’ve done nothing to cause them ourselves. This was the case with Job, and his friends seemed at first to understand that. But then they opened their mouths and made accusations which had no basis in truth. Their intentions were good, but their words caused Job more grief than he already had.

What do you do when your friend comes to you, suffering in some way? Do you immediately start investigating, trying to figure out why her trial has come, and looking for some kind of explanation so you can fix it? Or do you sit beside her, weep with her, and listen? I propose to you that the latter is almost always the better option, at least until she volunteers more information. You may find that she has created her own problem, and if that is the case, you can gently lead her to see the truth about her situation, and to repent of any sinful attitudes or actions on her part. But until you know for sure, the kindest response is to listen and pray.

A Friend Loves

I saved this one for last, but it is certainly not the least of the things that make for a good friend.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12&13)

How can you know if you are loving your friend as Christ loved you? We can answer this question by thinking on the things that Christ does for us as our friend:

  • He intercedes with the Father for us.
    • Do you pray for your friend?
  • He teaches us how to love God.
    • Do you disciple your friend, offering accountability and wisdom from the Scriptures?
  • Jesus says here that the greatest love we can have is to lay down our life for our friends. Does this mean we must be willing to die for our friends? Maybe. But it definitely means that we must be willing to put aside our busyness for them.
    • Do you make time for your friends?
    • Do you intentionally plan for meaningful time to nurture this God-given friendship?

Laying down one’s life can be manifested in many ways:

  • Putting our friend’s needs ahead of our own.
  • Giving material things, money, time, or labor for her.
  • Laying aside our own perceived rights or needs as a friend when she is unable, for whatever reason, to meet them.
  • Forgiving offenses quickly when asked, and covering others with love.

I love my friends, and I honestly can’t imagine this life without them. They make me laugh; they challenge me; they understand that I am human, weak, and frail and they constantly point me to the only real source of strength. Some have known me for decades, and some only a few months, but they all have one thing in common: They love me with the love of Christ, and they do it in all the ways I’ve outlined here, and so many more. I hope that, by the grace of God, I can be this kind of friend to them.

My friend Jane is home with the Lord now, and has finally had a face to face meeting with her Best Friend, Jesus. You and I can only imagine their conversation and fellowship. But we can begin to present to the world a picture of friendship that looks more and more like it. As we love and nurture our friendships, we must keep in our minds this truth: Our friendships in this life are preparing us for the fellowship we will enjoy in heaven. Let’s make the most of them!