True, Biblical Friendship

Happy_Friendship_Day_2021_1627730174856_1627730182001What comes to mind when you hear the word, “friendship“? We all have images that come to mind, based on our life experiences. What about Biblical friendship, what does that look like? I want to answer that in this article. I am teaching this lesson tonight at Southern Calvert Baptist Church during our AWANA program. I get to work with the high school students tonight. We are going to dig in to this subject and I wanted to think through it with you here before teaching tonight. According to the etymology of this word, “friendship” means the quality of being attached to another for the good of that person. We tend to think of friendship as being a relationship with another person who makes me happy. The original intent of the word is a relationship for the benefit of the other person. Isn’t it interesting how words and concept change over time? The original intent of friendship is closely related to the Biblical description of friendship. Let’s dive in and see what we can discover.

I. Attitude

Like with everything in life, before we get to our actions, we have to begin with our attitude. Our attitudes determine our actions. What kind of attitude does a person with Biblical friendship have? The Apostle Peter explains the attitude of Biblical friendship.

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; (I Peter 3:8)

I want to go through the meaning of each of these words and discover what the attitude of Biblical friendship looks like in a practical way. The first one is harmonious. This means that Biblical friends are of the same mindset. They have the same worldview. The Greek word used here that we translate as harmonious is homophron. It’s the word we get homogenize from as well as homosapien. What causes Biblical friends to have the same mind and world view? Another Apostle shares a practical example with us in a letter that he wrote to the church in Rome.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

When two people study the Scriptures and live by those Scriptures, they both have their minds renewed and are not conformed to the ways of this world. They both develop a Biblical worldview. The second one is sympathetic. Sympathy means to feel the pain of another and suffer along with that person until things get better. The third word used is brotherly. It’s a translation of the Greek word, “philadelphos“.  As you may have already guessed, this is the word that we get Philadelphia from. The idea behind this is sibling love. It’s based on mutual benefits. The next word is kindhearted. It means to desire the good of others, wanting others to prosper and do well. The final work that I would like to focus on is humble. The idea behind the meaning of this word is to prostrate, be low to the ground, lowliness of mind, modest. The best example that I have ever heard on this is when two rams fight, typically, they will butt heads until one of them dies. Neither will relent or surrender. When a goat and a ram fight, the goat will bow low and allow the ram to win the battle. The ram really has not gained anything in this victory and the goat escapes with its life. This is the picture of what humility looks like.

True Biblical friendship begins with a correct attitude. That attitude seeks to look out for the good of others. That attitude must move to action in order to be Biblical friendship. It cannot remain on the level of theory. Let’s take a look at the actions that Biblical friendship produces.

II. Actions

The Apostle Peter follows up the characteristics of a Biblical friend with the actions of a Biblical friend.

not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (I Peter 3:9)

Biblical friendship does not return evil for evil or insult for insult. The word insult means to debase or degrade. Instead of taking these evil actions, Biblical friendship blesses others. A person who understands Biblical friendship, understands that he has already been blessed by God and because of that, he wants to be a blessing to others. What does this look like in a practical sense? I want to turn to the Old Testament story of Jonathan and David, focusing in on their friendship.

III. Actual Example

I love the way that the Bible provides examples of what it teaches in theory. The final Judge in the Bible is Samuel. In his first book, he writes about Jonathan and David’s friendship.

1 Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.
2 Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house.
3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself.
4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.
5 So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. (I Samuel 18)

In verse 1, we see that Jonathan and David are of the same mind. That should immediately remind us of the word “harmonious” in I Peter 3:8. Jonathan loved David as himself. That should remind us of brotherly love. They have a friendship based on mutual benefits. In verse 3, Jonathan makes a covenant with David for David’s benefit. A covenant is a solemn binding agreement made between two parties with benefits for faithfulness and punishment for disobedience. At this point in time, Jonathan does not have anything to gain in this friendship. On the other hand, David has much to gain. That should remind us of sympathetic and kindhearted. Finally, Jonathan vows to defend David. That is humility.

1 Now Saul told Jonathan his son and all his servants to put David to death. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, greatly delighted in David.
2 So Jonathan told David saying, “Saul my father is seeking to put you to death. Now therefore, please be on guard in the morning, and stay in a secret place and hide yourself.
3 “I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you; if I find out anything, then I will tell you.”
4 Then Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you.
5 “For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death without a cause?”
6 Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.”
7 Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these words. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as formerly (I Samuel 19)

Jonathan is commanded, by his father, the king, to do evil to David. Instead of doing evil to David, Jonathan blesses him. This is a mirror image of I Peter 3:9. I can almost see the Apostle Peter thinking about Jonathan and David while writing his first letter. I am fairly certain he was very familiar with this passage.

Do you have a friendship like Jonathan and David’s? Do you have the attitude mentioned by the Apostle Peter? Are you a student of the Word so that you can have the right worldview? Do you seek to live in such a way that you seek the good of others?

May the Lord help us live out Biblical friendship on a daily basis.

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