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 (Manna 22: Indifferent Neighbors)
Choosing a Friend
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Choosing a friend

VINCENT YEOH [SINGAPORE]

“LIFE is to be fortified by many friendships. To love, and be loved, is the greatest happiness of existence,” says Sidney Smith. “It is not good for man to be alone,” declares the Lord God. Man was not created to be a forlorn animal. Man needs other men. Friends add vivacity to life. However the Bible warns:

            “There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who stick closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24).

Therefore the Bible admonishes:

            “A righteous man turns away from evil, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov 12:26).

And in the pages of the Bible, God has left us with some pointers as to how we should choose our friends.

·         He who can have God as bond

Friendship maybe forged by circumstances but, as quickly as it began, it maybe lost by circumstances. What happened to all our school chums after we left school? What happened to all our bridge partners after we lost interest in the game? Friends are made when we are thrown together in some common activities or necessities.

And the bond of friendships is as enduring and true as our interest in such activities or our reliance on such necessities. It cannot be otherwise because transience is the essence of human conditions. On the other hand, if God be the bond of your friendship, the beauty and endurance of true love emerge. In 1 Samuel 18:1; 20:17, the Bible records that Jonathan loved David as his own life. Their friendship survived severe opposition. They were able to be the best of friends although Jonathan’s father, King Saul, sought to kill David. Why? 1 Samuel 20:42 provides the key to understanding the strength of their friendship:

            “And Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord saying, The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’”

They had God as their bond. Christians should choose friends who can have God as their bond. The truest of friends walk together in the path of God — keeping the doctrines and the laws of God together. “Do two walk together, unless they have made an appointment?” asked the Prophet Amos (Amos 3:3). If you cannot agree with your friend as to the purpose of life, how can he be your best friend to walk together with you? Your life’s aims is to serve God, his is to enjoy himself in worldly pursuits. There is no common destiny. Your mission is to preach the fill gospel of salvation to all nations, his is to confuse the lost with the deadly partial truth that one can be saved by merely believing in Christ. The paths are different. Therefore, if you are looking for a true friend, look for one who not only believes in God but who will also walk together with you according to the words of God. In that way, God can be your bond. And you will be able to join the Psalmist in declaring:

            “I am a companion of all who fear thee, of those who keep thy precepts” (Psalms 119:63).

·         He who stays in time of troubles

Proverbs 19:4 says, “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.” A man in a position of power and who is able to give what others want will have many people flocking to him and claiming to be his friends. But the best test of friendship is adversity. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times.” Your true friend will be someone who is by your side in times of trouble.

·         He who is not bad company

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us wantonly ambush the innocent; like Sheol let us swallow them alive and whole, like those who go down to the Pit, we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with spoil; throw in your lot among us, we will all have one purse” —my son, do not walk in the way with them, hold back your foot from their paths.” (Prov 1:10-15) Paul in a similar vein says, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corin 15:33). Avoid the company of so-called friends who walk the path of sin. For this reason, the Bible tells us to avoid drinkers (Prov 23:20-21) and hot tempered men (Prov 22:24-25).

·         He who is willing to counsel

The mark of a good friend is his willingness to counsel. Nobody enjoys criticisms and therefore it takes a really dose friend to assume the task of pointing out your faults. It is easy, and very pleasant, to praise because we win favour by so doing. But we keep friends by giving sincere counsel. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” And in verse 9 it says, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, but the soul is torn by trouble.” Do not take offence therefore the next time your friend points out your mistake. He is merely being true to you. The “wounds of a friend” ought to be appreciated and welcomed rather than shunned.

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Author: Vincent Yeoh
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