This New Year presents many opportunities for new experiences and new acquaintances. It also causes us to reflect on past experiences comparing what we’ve learned about our friends and what makes them worthy of keeping. Every new friend has the potential of life-long friendship, a valuable treasure. Many will be valuable; some may be harmful to our character – detrimental to our integrity. If we are open to new friends, we need a system of evaluation that will help us ‘weed out’ the harmful influence while holding on to those of value. I’m grateful God has revealed His desire to help us in this process. Here are some tips I have learned from God’s word.
Friendship is important to God. If not, why would the scripture call Abraham a friend of God? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. He was called the friend of God.” (James 2:23) Next, we have to be careful when we offer friendship to those who value too highly the things of this world. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Don’t get too close to those who cling to the things of this world. Even our Lord Jesus gave us the key to being friends with Him, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:14) We must know His teaching.
Brace yourself – the initial stage of friendship is risky. If God’s word is to direct us, we need a store house of His advice. A student of the Bible learns quickly what characteristics to look for in potential friends. First impressions can be deceiving. Anyone can be nice when it only takes a short investment of time and effort, but time has a way of revealing the best AND THE WORST in people. So hold new acquaintances at arm’s length, especially good advice when dating. The word of God tells us not to judge, not to be critical, but each potential friend should either be a missionary effort (to bring them to faith-increase their faith) or they should display obvious signs of being a believer themselves. One kind, you will help, the other will be a help to you.
Once past the initial stage, friends fall into several categories. Casual friends continue to reveal their true identity as we get to know them better, but they are also learning about us. Don’t give your innermost secrets away too quickly. Friends should earn the trust necessary to learn of your guarded private life. Some friends you’ll see often and they will soon reveal the trust you can place in them. Others you may not see so often, but the trust you feel in their presence is greater than those you see often. Perhaps the greatest wounds will come from people we trusted, only to be betrayed.
Relationships are tough. They take time, energy, and effort. While some friends are compassionate and helpful, others will be straightforward and sometimes blunt. There is a place for both. If you have taken your time and know your friends well, you will be able to receive benefit from both types. Yet, most important is your friendship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Value that friendship above all else and the powerful Holy Spirit will help you choose friends that will make your journey sweet.