Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What Are Friends For: Developing Quality Relationships

One day, a man was walking along a road, when he saw a piece of clay in his path. He stooped down to pick it up, and as he did so, he smelled a sweet fragrance. "This is but a piece of clay," said the man in bewilderment. "How is it that this scent is so sweet and fresh?" The piece of clay replied, "I have dwelt with the rose."

This story came from Aesop's Fables, but the moral is simple and biblical: You will become like those you keep company with-- for good, or for bad. Proverbs 13:20 says, "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." And in 1 Corinthians 15:33, we are warned, "Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals.""

Psychologist Ruth W. Berenda conducted an experiment several years ago concerning peer pressure. Ten teenagers were taken into a room, where a teacher stood with three charts. Each chart had a line drawn on it, and the students were told to raise their hands when the teacher pointed to the chart with the longest line. The catch? Nine of the teenagers had been instructed beforehand to vote for the second longest line, not the longest. The teacher pointed to the second longest line, and nine hands shot up into the air. The tenth teenager looked around, confused. Then he raised his hand tentatively.

The experiment was repeated, and the results were shocking. In approximately 75% of the cases, the tenth person would raise his hand with the rest. He would say that a short line was longer than a long line, just because everyone else was doing it.

The truth is undeniable: Our friends have tremendous influence on us. They can help to bring out the best character in us, or the worst. Therefore, it is of vital importance who we choose to surround ourselves with. We can either choose friendships that will spur us on towards Christ-likeness, or we can choose friendships that will draw us in the opposite direction.

Julie is your stereotypical teenage girl. If you see her, she will probably be chatting with one of her many "friends" on her cell phone. Several times a week, and sometimes every day, she manages to tour her local shopping mall or catch a movie with one of her "girlfriends." Julie is rarely at her own home, and if she is, she usually has company. She has younger siblings that she occasionally babysits, though only after being asked by her mom several times. Julie loves her siblings, but would never consider them her "friends."

Does Julie sound familiar yet? Perhaps she resembles some of your acquaintances. Maybe she even resembles you.

Although there is nothing wrong with shopping or going to the movies with a friend, in our entertainment-addicted culture we have lowered the expectations for friendships, and have made our friendships themselves entertainment-oriented. A friend of mine mentioned wistfully in conversation the other day, "Wouldn't it be nice, if our friends were not only people we hung out with, but people we served God with?" It would not only be nice, it would be beautiful! It is what friends were made for! Friendships are not designed by God solely to add fun to our lives, but in order to encourage us to honor God.

Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." An "iron sharpening iron" relationship requires effort and dedication. Although a godly friend should love at all times (Proverbs 17:17), an aspect of that love is very challenging to apply: Occasionally, when a friend is not behaving in obedience to the Bible, a godly friend must offer a gentle rebuke. As unpopular and hard is it can be, this loving correction is a part of a good friendship. Proverbs 27:6 states it plainly: "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses."

In friendships that are based on entertainment, rebuke is not a part of the relationship. However, as believers in Christ, the rebuke and correction of our friends should be a result of love. The rebuke is given when needed, so that our friends may continue towards Christ. In Hebrews 3:13, Christians are told to keep each other from sin. "But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

An old Nigerian adage is: "Hold a true friend in both of your hands." The reason one should hold a true friend with both hands is because true friends are hard to find. They should be valued, and held tightly so that they will not be lost. Sadly, we sometimes lose and overlook our dearest friends: the friends that are within our own family.

I cannot remember having friends who care more about me or understand me better than my family members. We all have faults and sometimes drastic differences in personality, but God has chosen them to be my friends. Unlike others, my family is committed to helping me pursue a deeper relationship with Christ. When I am troubled in spirit, my parents give me wise counsel and pray diligently for me. Above all, my family is concerned about my best interest. They are not motivated by ulterior motives as other friends can be; they are motivated by love, which is the chief attribute to a quality friendship.

1 John 4:7-8 tells us that love is of God. We cannot truly love anyone in our lives if we are not first in an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. And as with everything else pertaining to life and godliness, Jesus is the ultimate example. Jesus had an intimate relationship with His Father, and close friendships with the twelve apostles. (John 15:15) When we make it our priority to have a close relationship with the Lord, love will flow out of our lives, into the lives of our friends.

For discussion.....
  • How many of your friendships would you define as "quality friendships?" (No names, please.)
  • What are ways that we work together with friends to glorify God?
  • What are ways to spur friends closer to Christ?
  • Do you have a friend that has stuck by you for a long time? What is it that has kept your friendship going?
Posted by Lindsey and Hannah



Blogger the traveler said...

What an interesting post! I don't have many friendships that could be called "quality," but I am grateful for the ones I do have. Some of my friendships are still developing, so it's hard to say, but at least three of those are quality friendships.

One friend in particular has stuck with me since I was 9 years old. We've been friends off and on, but even when I wasn't sure I wanted to be friends, she kept trying and didn't give up on me. I'm so thankful for her! I think quality friendships can be defined by the "love verse." Patience, kindness, not envious or boastful, not proud, rude, self-seeking, easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs. Rejoices with the truth. Always protects, trusts, hopes, perserveres. This friend in particular has been very perserverent.

July 05, 2006 6:46 AM  
Anonymous in_butnot_of said...

amen. i like the way you gave actual reasons why family makes such incredible friends. they're most likely going to be more honest with you when you're screwing up then other friends who are afraid of hurting your feelings. its sad about the experiment with the teacher. i know that not too long ago, i would have been the tenth student who raised my hand b/c everyone else was.

July 05, 2006 12:10 PM  
Anonymous AgainstTheFlow said...

I agree with "the traveller", as I don't have many friends that I communicate with on a deep level. To the question that you asked, "What are ways to spur friends closer to Christ?" is a good one. I would say that there are so many times that you can offer a Biblical perspective to something that may encourage someone else in their walk. Also, there have been times that I will be talking with a friend over the phone and we pray for each other over the phone and share verses that the Lord has laid on our hearts. That is really precious. I don't really
have a good answer for "What are ways that we work together with friends to glorify God?" though and look forward to seeing someone's elses' ideas! Most of the time my friends and I don't know what to do together....I'd love advice!

July 05, 2006 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Katie Marie said...

Lovely post, girls. I really appreciate your comment about friendships that are based on entertainment. It was a much need reminder to me to be so much more careful to make Christ the foundation of the friendships in my life.

What are ways that we work together with friends to glorify God?"

One thing that came to my friendly! Be careful not to just "keep it all" to yourselves. Let your friendship be a encouragment to others. -work together to make those that are often 'friendless' feel loved. True, Godly friendships can have a great impact on others and bring much glory to God.

"Do you have a friend that has stuck by you for a long time? What is it that has kept your friendship going?"

I've had some friendships that have slowly dissolved as both of our interests in life went different ways. Back to your point on keeping friendships based on Christ instead of entertainment- a friendship I have that is based on Him has lasted a lot longer than those that aren't. No matter how our interests change, we still have the common bond of desiring to serve Christ and live totally for Him.

July 05, 2006 9:56 PM  
Anonymous JoAnna said...

Common fellowship around Christ and a deep love for Him is what keeps Godly friendships fervent. I have a couple of friends that I have known for over 13 years, but I'm not as close to them as I am to a family that I've known for 5. The reason is that the first friendships were formed originally around proximity (same neighborhood) & play, but the latter were formed distinctly around Christ and a deep desire to get to know Him better.

I think your second and third questions have closely related answers--we work together with friends to glorify God when we build up each other by reading the Word together, praying together, witnessing together, etc. Fellowship with other believers is in itself a manifestation of God's love ("By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."John 13:35). In short, if we are continuously improving our friendship with God (" You are My friends, if you do what I command you." John 15:14/ "A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24), we will be drawing closer to our friends, glorifying God, and helping spur them on to a deeper relationship with Christ.

I greatly enjoy your posts, ladies! :-)

July 07, 2006 5:18 PM  
Anonymous hannah michelle said...

Wonderful post! It's always good to get a reminder about what the focus of friendship should be. I totally agree about being friends with your family first of all! It's really amazing to think that God place each of them in my lifes for special reason, and there's a bond there that you can't have with any other people.

Keeping God at the center of your friendships is definitely the best way to ensure longevity of the relationship as well. My best friend of 5 years remains such precisely because of our shared goal to serve the Lord. She is an inspiration to me in her passion for Him, and we never fail to share, encourage, pray for each other, and yes offer a word of challenge when needed. At the end of the day, that is what makes a true friend - one who points you to Christ! And yes, hang on when you find one!!

July 09, 2006 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree that God is the way to strengthening friendships. Yes, yes, by all means I am sure it may do wonders for some friendships, but can it not also break a friendship? My best friend is Jewish, he does not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Yet I know that he would support me through anything, he has stayed by my side through thick and thin. In looking for God to strengthen friendships might we be overlooking what He wants most? As you so eloquently put it, he created friendships for us. I believe that pure and moral ideals are more important then agreeing on the exact nature of God. I know that this friendship was meant to be, because I love him. Not, you understand, in a romantic way, but in that way of true friendship. I would sacrifice myself for him. That pure of a love, I think you would say, is Godly. Then, infact, can you not have friendships with morals as a support rather then God? It may seem one and the same to you, but I am trying to illustrate the difference.

March 27, 2007 11:44 PM  

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