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Biblical teaching on friendship

  • Reverend Martin Adhikary
  • 30 July, 2021 12:00 AM
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Biblical teaching on friendship

This year,the International Day ofFriendshipwill be observed today (July 30). The observance of the InternationalFriendship Day on July 30 each year was proclaimed bythe United Nations in the year 2011. The idea behind thisis to encourage friendship, amity and solidarity amongpeople, nations, cultures and all for the greater interest ofuniversal fraternity and love.

We often talk of religious doctrines and dogmas. But weneed to give more emphasis in our religious teachings onsuch practically important matter as ‘friendship’ atindividual and collective levels. First of all, we mustremember that friendship is a matter of the heart. It is onemind or one heart residing in two or more bodies. TheBible contains great teachings and truth about humanfriendship.

In the Holy Bible the great prophet Abraham is called a‘friend of God’ (2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23). The idea behind this comes from a story narrated inGenesis 18:17). God was to share with Abraham what Hewas to about to do to the wicked cities of Sodom andGomorrah. He did not want to hide his plan from hisfriend Abraham just as among us, human beings share

what is in their minds to their friend or friends. This isbecause friends trust one another. Friendship is built ofdeep trust. We read in the Old Testament book of theExodus that Moses talked to God as one talks with his orher friend. Such is the trust and dependence betweenfriends. The book of Samuel, in chapters18-20, candidlynarrates stories about the proverbial friendship betweenDavid and the son of King Saul, Jonathan. When Saul, thetyrannical ruler or king of ancient Hebrew people, waspursuing David again and again to kill him it was his son,

Jonathan who stood by his side so that David could not bekilled. Jonathan did not consider the question of inheritinghis father’s throne above his friendship with David, whowas innocent and was working for justice, righteousnessand peace. Here is just one verse from the narrative:“After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathanbecame one in spirit with David, and he loved him ashimself” (1 Samuel 18:1).

Friends are of like mind. A trustworthy friend is one whocan be oneself with without any fear that he or shewill judge the friend. We can completely trust and confidewith our friends. Indeed, a real friend comes from God. Atrustworthy friend is a gift from God. We are highlyblessed if we have good and trustworthy friends. There isnothing like it! It is a rare thing to have such friends.

There are multiple verses in the ancient Wisdom literaturein the Bible on friendship. We may have some of themhere. None of them are hard to understand! First from thebook of Proverbs (Meshal): “A righteous man is cautiousin friendship, but the way of the wicked leads him astray”(12: 26), “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is bornfor adversity” (17:17), “A man of many companions maycome to ruin” (18:24), “Do not make friendship with ahot-tempered man, do not associate with one easilyangered” (22: 24), “Wounds from a friend can be trusted,but an enemy multiplies kisses” (27:6), “ Perfumes and

incense bring joy to the heart , and the pleasantness ofone’s friend springs from his earnest counsel”, “Ironsharpens iron” ( 27:17). Stressing the great importance offriendship the wise king Solomon said, “Two are betterthan one, because they have a good return for their work:if one falls down his friend can help him up. But pity theman who falls and has no one to help him up!”

(Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10).Invaluable teachings on true friendship are also laid downin the different books in the New Testament, includingeven teaching from Jesus Christ himself. Pointing to thetranscendental relationship that he had with his immediatedisciples Jesus exhorted them with these words ofencouragement: “My command is this: Love each other asI have loved you. Greater love has no man than this thathe lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends ifyou do what I command. I no longer call you servants,because a servant does not know his master’s business.

Instead, I have called you friends for everything that Ihave learned from my Father I have made known to you”(John 15: 12-15, also see Romans 5: 7-8). Jesus Christgave his life for the salvation of mankind. He loves us somuch selflessly that he could do this. He is the model offriendship. Indicating the mutual trust and respectrequired for friendship among people Jesus said, “. . . So in everything, what you would have them to do to you, forthis sums the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7: 12, alsoin Luke 6:31).

English sayings like these may come up to our minds: ‘Aman is known by the company he keeps’ and ‘Birds ofsame feather flock together’. Likewise the Bible warns usto avoid bad friendship or company. St Paul warnedbelievers thus, “Do not be misled: Bad company corruptsgood character” (1 Corinthians 15: 33). We must do ourbest to bring up our children in such a way that they maymake the right choice of making friends.

 

The writer is a Christian Theology teacher and church leader