Sociologists have noted that friendship is the only relationship that is not a biological or social necessity, therefore it often gets pushed to the finges of our life. Yet, Proverbs tells us that we won’t grow in wisdom without certain types of friends. Friends bring something unique into your life that other relationships can’t because they are unlike every other type of relationship. What are friends? How do be a great friend? Where do get the ability to be a friend like that?
The book of Proverbs is an incredibly practical, albeit ancient, text. In fact, one of the main reasons it has remained so popular thousands of years after its writing is its ongoing, timeless, relevance in relation to the nitty gritty of our daily lives. Simply put, Proverbs is helpful. The meta-theme of Proverbs is wisdom, which is the skill of living, particularly in the gray areas of life. As we’ve discussed throughout this series, wisdom is not merely the result of life experience, possessing the right information or mastering certain techniques. Those are all helpful, necessary and good things. But, by themselves, they are not enough. Rather, wisdom is the result of a particular posture of heart and life that, in turn, enables you to make the right decisions – particularly in areas of life where the normal rules of life don’t apply. What is that posture of heart and life? Proverbs calls it “the fear of the Lord”.
To “fear the Lord” is not to be afraid or scared of him (in the modern day, popular sense). To fear the Lord is to trust him, love him, hope in him, to be in awe of him. It is to fear leaving him, losing him or life without him. Or, put simply, to let God be God to you, in all of his power, glory, and wonder. As you let God be God to you, you will gradually and increasingly become the type of person that can make the right decisions in life where the normal rules of life don’t apply or prove helpful. So, in this light, Proverbs is about how letting God be God to us effects every dimension of our lives. Over the last month we’ve been looking at various aspects of our character (words, emotions, pride, self-control) and how each plays a role in making us wise people. Beginning today we’ll be shifting to examining various relationships and their role in making us wise. Today, we start with the topic of friendship.
What is really interesting is that Proverbs tells us that we are not going to be wise people unless we have some good friends – of a certain type. Now, you may have noticed that friendship has fallen on hard times. We live in a culture that is very confused about friendship (see Facebook). Individualistic cultures, like ours, value romantic love more than friendship. Traditional cultures view family as more important. Socialistic cultures view social relationships as more important. Every culture puts friendship in the back seat. Why is that?
Sociologists have noted that friendship is only relationship that is not a biological or social necessity, therefore it often gets pushed to the finges of our life.
“Friendship is the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary. It has least commerce with our nerves; there is nothing throaty about it; nothing that quickens the pulse or turns you red and pale” CS Lewis, Four Loves, p58
It is all too easy, amidst daily pressures w/ family, coworkers, neighbors, want romance, to have our friends get easily pushed to side. But, this presents an issue. What is that? Well, Proverbs says we won’t grow in wisdom without being and receiving a certain type of friendship.
Why? This shouldn’t surprise you, but the answer is theological. At heart of the trinitarian God (Father, Son, Spirit) is an eternal, loving friendship. We are created in his image so we’re always on lookout for friendships. God’s fingerprints are all over friends. Friends bring something unique into your life that other relationships can’t because they are unlike every other type of relationship. So, here’s where we’re going;
#1 What is a friend? #2 How do you create friendship? #3 Where do we get the power for it?
Q#1: WHAT IS A FRIEND?
18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
This verse highlights four things about true friendship:
First, and most obviously, friends are relatively few while companions many. Proverbs repeatedly emphasizes that a few close friends is much better than having many companions.
Second, friends are deeply committed to one another. cf “Stick” = resolute commitment
Third, friends are intentionally chosen whereas family is unintentionally chosen for you. On what basis are friends chosen? CS Lewis helps us here:
“The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one?’”
Lewis goes on to explain that there is a difference between romance and friendship. They are similar, but they are not the same thing. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love. Friends hardly ever talk about their friendship. Lovers are face to face, absorbed in one another. Friends are side-to-side, looking to common truth. So, what this means is that what makes a friend is NOT “do you want to be my friend?” but “What? You too? I thought I was the only one?”
“This is why those pathetic people who simply ‘want friends’ can never make any. The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else beside Friends… Friendship must be about something, even it if were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.” Lewis, Four Loves, 65-66
Fourth, friends are slowly discovered. To know if those are you will stick you will need to spend some life with them.
So, here we have it, the essence of friendship: Relatively few + deeply committed +intentionally chosen + slowly discovered.
This, of course, makes friendships incredibly rare and valuable. It is these types of relationships that aid in making us wise
“OK, but how do we get them?” Even better, “How do I become a friend like that?” Don’t make mistake of thinking “Yeah, where are my friends?” First ask, “Am I a friend?” That said, what are the ingredients that go into creating a friendship like that? Building blocks? Elements?
Q#2: HOW DO YOU CREATE A FRIENDSHIP?
17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Fair weather friends are common but a fair-weather friend, according to Proverbs, is not a friend. But there is friend who sticks closer than brother and loves at all times: loyal, constant, thick+thin. The “all times” here means all kinds of times, places, ways. This is the real test of friendship. You cannot be a friend w/out being available to others, not only when things good, but also when bad. A friend does whatever it takes and will be there even if if costs them, irrespective of circumstances.
This is why covenant of marriage is really a covenant of friendship. It is a covenant of being committed at all times (rich/poor, better/worse). NOTE: Singles: Build friendship before romantic relationship. Ask: Can I imagine being best friends?
Now the unfortunate reality is that most people know you because you’re useful to them. You are a means to an end.
What end? Good time, meeting others, getting things done, advancing career, not being bored, just there. One of the greatest challenges, discerning who your real friends are. Be careful. It is also true that most people you know, you know because they are useful to you.
How do you know who your real friends are? When you’re sinking those people are gone, but a friend is there in the thick of it. A friend has deliberately made you an end in itself – not a means to an end. That’s constancy.
27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
27:5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
29:5 A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.
Going on here? Candid counsel. Friendly words: encourage, give life, joy to be around, make the heart glad. Friendly wounds: words your friend needs to hear, but will be painful to hear. Lovingly honest. Only true friend can do both of those: friendly words and wounds. Need both to become wise. You’re NOT always pleasant/encouraging NORalways challenging/sharpening. If that is happening, something is wrong. This portrays a relationship where all the cards are on the table. There is relational transparency.
“But, I love them too much to tell them” If you say that you’re not being a friend, but an enemy. Proverbs has name for that: wounding kisses. Giving wounding kissess is not saying what needs to be said. If you do that you’re not a friend. Why is it such a big deal? Well, if you don’t say anything, they are going to make decision on basis of how they see reality (which is wrong) and that will only mean disaster for them. Ask yourself: Am I kind of friend that wound others for good (not to discourage, be right, etc) for their best interest?
25:17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.
25:20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.
27:14 Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.
26:18,19 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
Q: Why does a man overstay welcome, say “I was only joking” or “loudly bless his neighbor in the AM”???? We won’t like this answer, but we know it is true. He is careless, thoughtless, insensitive. He is not thinking about others or the effect of his words/actions on those around him. In effect, he is saying, “I’m not aware of you enough to know how I am effecting you…what my words do to you…” He is thoughtless and selfish. Often, the same people often always try to always be right, correcting others, get upper hand, show off knowledge
There is a complete disconnect. They are only aware of themselves, like one who “sings songs to a heavy heart”. That does nothing but kill friendships. Friendship requires thoughtfulness, tact, sincerity. Those things protect and build friendships where as thoughtlessness and insensitivity break them down.
6:1-5 “My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor; go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”
This is perhaps the most important, but most misunderstood of all these elements. In any relationship, sin will occur therefore it is vital to know how to deal w/ it. The two most common ways are to “blow up” or “brush it under the rug”. God has a better, different, plan: Biblical confession.
#1 Biblical confession is without delay. Deal with immediately. NOT “Well, they’re not ready to forgive me yet.” or “Its kind of inconvienent right now.” If sin has occurred it should be dealt with immediately.
#2 Biblical confession is specific. Saying “I’m sorry I hurt you” is not specific nor a confession. It can be the start of it, but it shouldn’t end there. To confess biblically is to use the specific biblical name for the sin that has taken place. Doing so enables you to own the full weight of your sin and clearly identify what is going on in your heart. i.e. Call what it is. You are NOT merely frustrated, you are sinfully angry. You are NOT “just kind of out of it”, you are selfish. You did NOT just make a “mistake”, you are controlling. You can apologize for leaving the refrigerator door open, but not for your sin. You confess and ask forgiveness for sin.
“Do not give fair names to foul sins; call them what you will, they will smell no sweeter. What God sees them to be… labor to feel them to be; and with all openness of heart acknowledge their real character” Spurgeon.
#3 Biblical confession is unqualified. It is not time to analyze the conflict. You need to own your sin. There are no “buts” in your confession. If you say “but” that is a qualifier to your confession and therefore a disqualifier for your confession.
#4 Biblical confession is sincere. This is not a laundry list to work through but tracks for your heart to follow in confession. If you con’t feel the weight of your sin, then admit that and say something like, “I don’t feel the weight of it yet, but I own it…please forgive me for _____”
Biblical confession cleans the air of our relationships. It ensures that everyone is on the same page. When biblical confession takes place there is no mistaking what took place. It is not easy, but it is necessary. What you will find as you practice this is that, all of a sudden, the gospel will become very relevant – every day. You will discover that you are still a sinner in need of a savior – and that brings freedom and strength to your relationships. Nothing will do greater damage to relationships than NOT doing this; nothing will bring greater health.
13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
22:24,25 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.
12:26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
16:29 A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.
This is more passive than active. But here’s what these Proverbs are getting at. You are being shaped by who you spend the most time with – for good or ill. They don’t say if, but when you will be shaped. Be careful who you allow to influence you, spend time with, read, listen to, etc. You will become like who you spend time with. If you’re in bad company, you need to part ways. What practical changes do you need to make to ensure you’re walking w/ wise, not companion of fools? These fools likely aren’t going to be ax-murderers, but probably very nice, pleasant, fun people who you generally enjoy. But, are they wise? Safe? What direction are they heading in? What changes to who you spend time with? Listen to? Read?
SUM: Constancy + Candor + Careful + Confession + Conform = you’ll have a friend. If you’re like me, probably feeling one or two things right now. #1 Encouraged. “Wow, a friend like that would be amazing.” #2 Discouraged. “Wow, I could never be a friend like that.” We have to admit that there is a reason we don’t have many – if any – friends like that and its because we’re not great friends like that. So, where do we get the ability to be a friend like this? Let’s look…
Q#3: WHERE DO WE GET THE ABILITY TO BE AFRIEND LIKE THIS?
Bible tells us that one of our main problems is that we look for ultimate meaning/purpose in wrong place. One common area: human relationships (including friendships) We choose love of self over love of God and that inevitably destroys marriages, families and shallow friendship. To sort out our relationships w/ others, we must first sort out our relationship w/ him. He must be our #1. That’s what Proverbs means = “Fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom” = Letting God be God. Looking for ultimate fulfillment is good, but it will not be found in ourselves or others – only in Jesus Christ.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you…”
What is Jesus saying here: “I am ultimate friend.” To become a true friend, we must experience Jesus’ friendship. The more we experience friendship of Jesus, the more will express that type of friendship to others. “Companion of fools suffers harm.” Jesus became a companion of fools and suffered harm, on our behalf. When we were enemies of God, Jesus came to make us friends of God. In Christ, God is befriending us. Friendship began with God, not us. Mean? He cares about you. He cares about your sin. He cares about your future. He thinks about you. He understands you. He loves you. You are not alone. Friendship w/ God is the most important friendship we’ll have = make us great friends w/ others.
- We can be bear the adversity of our friends b/c he bore our adversity on the cross, to make us friends.
- We can remain loyal and not leave our friends b/c we know he has promised to never leave of forsake us.
- We can love friends when they don’t deserve it b/c even he died for us when we didn’t deserve it.
- We can lovingly confront our friends b/c he lovingly confronts us on the cross – sinners, but forgiven.
- We can be careful and tactful with our friends b/c we see his great care and tact in coming for us.
- We can be exceedingly gracious with our friends b/c he has been exceedingly gracious toward us.
- We don’t hold grudges against our friends b/c God, in Christ, no longer holds any grudges against us.
- We can freely forgive the sin of friends b/c God, in Christ freely forgives us our sin against him.
See how that works? Friendship with God, in Christ, makes us great friends with others. The more we are gripped with what God has done for us, and who we are, in Christ, the more we will do that for others. Jesus is the ultimate friend you’re looking for in all your friendships. Make him your great friend and there will be no shortage of people who will want to be your friend.