Friends Refs
Our friends influence what we do and what we believe, so it is important that we learn to discern between good and bad friends. We must also learn to acquire the godly characteristics that will make us a good friend to others. The greatest friend we can
have is Jesus himself.

John 15:12-17

Jesus gave this instruction on friendship and love to his disciples. Like the disciples, we too have been chosen to hear the gospel message and can be called friends of Jesus. If we accept the challenge of Jesus to be his friend then we must take action and demonstrate our commitment.

1. What does Jesus expect us to do if we want to be his friend?
2. How was Jesus an example to us of how to be a true friend?
3. Jesus does not require all of us to lay down our life for our friends. What sort of sacrifice does he ask us to make?

Friendship with Jesus will give us stability and direction in our lives. It also means we must turn our back on what the world has to offer. James tells us that we must not be a friend of the world.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

This passage makes it very clear that it is not possible to have a foot in both camps.

How to choose friends
Choosing a friend should not simply be a matter of whether we like someone’s personality or appearance. The Bible teaches us to discern between a good friend and a bad friend, because friends can affect our behaviour and change our beliefs. From God’s point of view the most important issue is not personality or appearance but whether our friend is a good influence on us.

Befriend a person whose godly attitude and actions you admire and can learn from.

We are advised to be cautious when choosing a friend because of the risk of being led astray.

A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Proverbs 12:26)

Paul also gives a warning about being led astray by friends.

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God-I say this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)
According to this passage, what is the effect of bad company?
What was the effect on the Corinthians?

Proverbs 27:17 describes the positive effect that friends can have on each other. In the same way that “iron sharpens iron”, friends can influence and develop each other’s characters for the better. Psalm 119:63 instructs us to be a friend to all those who fear God and follow his precepts.

As well as choosing friends who will be a good influence on you, you should also consider your influence on your friends. You can have a great effect on your friends, helping them and supporting them. Befriend a lonely person or a person who needs encouraging and support.

How to be a true friend
show unconditional love   Pro 17:17   be loyal   Pro 18:24
show self sacrificial love   Jn 15:12-13; Php 2:2-4   give encouragement   1 Th 5:11
give wise advice   Pro 27:9   provide support during adversity   Ecc 4:9-10
rebuke   Lk 17:3; Pro 27:6; Psa 141:5   show forgiveness   Pro 17:9

Developing close friendships
We can only really become close to someone when we get along well with them and share similar interests, goals and desires. The first thing to look for is compatibility in the area of religious beliefs and moral standards. Paul instructs believers to refrain from close friendships where this compatibility is missing.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

What is the principle that Paul keeps repeating? How should we apply the principle when we choose our close friends?

Friendships that are based on attributes such as appearance or wealth will not endure in time of trouble. We should not base our friendships on a person’s outward appearance but rather use God’s standards. In 1 Samuel 16:7 we learn that

man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

We cannot see the innermost thoughts of the heart as God can, so we must take time to get to know the person as we build a friendship with them. Getting to know a person involves getting to know their values and observing how they put their values into practice. This includes understanding their views on conscience issues, such as money, entertainment, and level of involvement in activities with other believers.

A friendship may take years to develop before we reach the point of closeness where we are comfortable revealing our innermost thoughts, hopes, fears and needs. Revealing everything takes complete trust. Hearing the innermost thoughts of a friend also requires that we be supportive, encouraging, understanding and confidential. It is essential to show loyalty and not betray your friend’s trust through gossip or carelessness. Always be guided by how you would want to be treated in the same circumstances, and by Jesus’ examples of support and friendship towards people who were in need.

Case Study

You are a believer who is single and attracted to someone at work. You can see that a relationship may develop.

1. What would you find out about the person before you allow a friendship to develop?
2. How would you introduce him or her to your religious beliefs?
3. At what point in the friendship would you mention that you would not marry an unbeliever?
4. Should you “go out” with the person before he or she is baptised?

Case Study

A close friend from your youth group has started to drift away from you since he started a new job. He spends long hours at work and is starting to go out with his work mates on weekends. Your friend admits that he has been drinking alcohol heavily. What would you say? Choose your words carefully.

Friendship with the world
We have been warned to keep away from the influence of evildoers and unbelievers. However, we should always strive to be friendly to everyone.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of
believers. (Galatians 6:10)

We should also be looking for opportunities to tell unbelievers about our hope.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Wayward friends
One of the most difficult things to do is warn or rebuke a friend who is straying from biblical teachings or principles. It is our responsibility to warn or rebuke if we are genuinely concerned for our friend.

So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)

It is important to express our concern in a sensitive and caring way. At times we may need to remind our friend that no matter
what he or she has done, God is always ready to listen to a repentant heart that is seeking his forgiveness.

• Jesus wants us to be his friend.
• Jesus showed us by his example how to be a true friend.
• We should actively choose our friends. They should be godly and a good influence on us.
• We should not choose unbelievers for close friends.
• We should strive to be friendly to everyone, especially to those who are lonely or need help.
• We should try to help a wayward friend.

1. How does friendship with Jesus help us in our relationship with others?
2. At what point does a person become a friend of the world and an enemy of God?
3. What is the likely outcome of a boy/girl relationship that has neglected the developing of a friendship and focused on the physical side? Why?
4. What is the danger of revealing our innermost thoughts to a friend too early in the relationship?
5. Are you a good friend to others? How can you improve?

• Letters to George and Jenny, Chapters 25 & 33, by Harry Whittaker (published by Biblia, 1988). 6 pages. Some straight-forward advice about boyfriends and girlfriends.
• Taking control: a guide for youth, edited by Rob J Hyndman (published by the Melbourne Christadelphian Sunday Schools, 1997). 35 pages. This short book covers many youth issues, including friends.

27. Alcohol, drugs and smoking
53. Fellowship
54. Preaching
55. The law of love
60. Marriage
64. Leisure time
65. Gossip