What is friendship? When you think, “friend,” who comes to mind? Your buddy? That guy who yells at the TV with you when your team’s losing? The gal you meet for coffee? The family you always sit next to at your kids’ sporting event? Someone who likes what you like, and thinks as you think? Often, our friends are those with whom we have a lot in common. Our bond is based on mutual interests and relating to them is easy.
But, is that all there is to friendship? What does it mean to have and be a friend?
Friendship is far more than agreeableness and shared recreation. If we were to view most of our friendships today against the backdrop of how Jesus communicates “friendship” we would see a stark contrast. We would see that many of our friends are more like good acquaintances. Biblically, friendship is defined by sacrifice, an unveiling of one’s soul, and being on mission together.
The Sacrifice of Friendship
In John 15:13, Jesus mixes friendship with death: ” ‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.’ ” This is exactly what He did. Though He was God, He gave up His life for those whom He called His friends. The call to friendship is a call to die to yourself – your desires, preferences, and ambitions – for the sake of another person’s good. It’s a call to love: a radical commitment to another’s good no matter what it costs you. This self-sacrificial love is the goal of friendship.
The Closeness of Friendship
Biblical friendship also involves an intimate knowledge of another’s soul. The Hebrew word for “friend” denotes an unveiling of the soul. Jesus calls us friends because He has unveiled the Father’s soul (His desire for His enemies to become His children through His Son).
Jesus is, and will always be, our closest friend. He fully knows us. He knows our darkest desires and most heinous thoughts. And still, fully knowing this, endured the full weight of God’s wrath against our sin for us. The way we experience friendship with Jesus is by embracing the fact that we are more sinful than we understand, and yet more loved than we can ever dream.
Because of this, our friendships with our fellow Christians are the deepest we can have. Why? Because we already know the whole story. We know the other person is sinful, and yet they’re fully loved by the Father through Jesus. Because of this, we can look at each other in the eye and say, “Whatever you’ve got, we can handle it because Jesus already paid for it.” Because we’re already forgiven by the Father through Jesus, we can honestly bear our souls to one another.
The Mission of Friendship
Finally, friendship doesn’t end with us. It has a greater purpose than just being a “friend,” but has a world-changing purpose: to “bear fruit” (John 15:16). Our friendships are to be a lighthouse of the gospel to a lost and dying world, illuminating God’s love for the world. This ultimately takes place in the church, where gospel friendships are cultivated and flourish. If we’re to preach the good news of God’s love for the world, we must certainly love one another in the church. So, we out-sacrifice one another for one another, so that other’s may see the goodness of God.
- How has your view of friendship differed or fallen short of Jesus’ teaching of friendship?
- Why should Jesus be your closest friend? Does this make Him less Lord, Savior, and King in your life?
- What does friendship with Jesus look like practically in your life?
- In what ways have you been passive as a friend?
- How will you be more vulnerable in your friendships? How will you organize your schedule for deeper friendships?
- Who are you sacrificially pursuing in friendship through radical sacrifice? How are you being inconvenienced for the sake of loving your friends?
- Who truly knows you, even the deepest, darkest parts?