"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. People need companions. Friends add vivacity to life. The Bible warns, however, that "a man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who stick closer than a brother" (Prov 18:24).
Therefore the word of God admonishes: "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray" (Prov 12:26). In the pages of the Bible, God has left us with some pointers on how we should choose our friends.
He Who Has God As the Bond of Friendship
Friendship maybe forged by circumstances, but as quickly as it is found, it may be 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.
The bond of friendship is as enduring and true as our interest in such activities or our reliance on such necessities. On the other hand, if God is the bond of your friendship, the beauty and endurance of true love emerges. 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:
Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the Lord saying, 'May the Lord be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.'"
They had God as their bond. The truest of friends walk together in the path of God, keeping the doctrines and the laws of God together. "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" 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? If your life's aim is to serve God and his is to enjoy himself in worldly pursuits, then there is no common destiny. Therefore, if you are looking for a true friend, look for one who not only believes in God but 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 You, and of those who keep Your precepts" (Psalms 119:63).
He Who Stays in Time of Troubles
Proverbs 19:4 says: "Wealth makes many new friends, but the poor man is separated from 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 Mends. 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 to shed blood, let us lurk secretly for the innocent; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse" - my son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their paths." (Prov 1:10-15)
Similarly Paul says, "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits'" (1 Cor 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 close friend to assume the task of pointing out your faults. It is easy and very pleasant to praise because we win favor by so doing. But to keep friends, it is necessary to give sincere counsel. Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." And in verse 9 it says, "Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man's friend gives delight by hearty counsel." Therefore, do not take offense the next time your friend points out your mistake. He is merely being true to you. The "wounds of a friend," if true to the mark, should be appreciated and welcomed rather than shunned.