Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wisdom from the Word-Weekly Series #3

Question of the week:

Do we need friends?

The short answer:  no

The long answer:  yes


The short answer is no for a couple of reasons (and I promise this is the short answer :)  No, because of the word "need" in the question.  The only thing we need, according to God's Word, is Christ and His Word.  Those two things alone will sustain us.  Okay...you are saying, "but we need air, food, clothing, money, etc."  Yes, but in essence, if we get down to what we REALLY need, we only need Him. We don't "need" to actually even live!   As sinners destined to hell we NEED a Savior.  That is the first and greatest need for every single human being.  After that, He tells us clearly, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)  And, "But seek His Kingdom and all these things will be added to you."(Luke 12:31)  If you found yourself in the place where you literally had nothing but Christ, you would have all you need!  He is the greatest Friend. One of my favorite songs is Hallelujah, All I Have is Christ!


But the long answer is Yes!  Of course, you know I am going to define friend right now!  You just can't go forward with questions like these without everyone being on the same page!  What is a need? And what constitutes a friend?  More specifically, how does the Bible define a friend?  


friend

  [frend] 
noun
1.
a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2.
a person who gives assistance; patronsupporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3.
a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?
4.
a member of the same nation, party, etc.


Jesus gives us a beautiful definition of a friend and because it is from Him, it is the perfect definition and the One we should base all our thoughts about friendship on!

 "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you 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 I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:13-15).

Jesus fulfilled this definition by laying down His life, in obedience to the Father, for His friends...us!  Wow.
But, before He laid down His life, He lived it out for our benefit and made everything He had learned from His Father known to us.  How did He live it out?

  • He was a friend to sinners:  So many examples in scripture!  In Mark 2:15 he is found reclining and eating with sinners.  In Luke 7 a sinful woman anoints Jesus feet with her hair. In John 8 we see how Jesus lovingly interacts with the adulterous woman who is about to be stoned.  And in Luke 19 we have Zaccheus!  How can we forget Zaccheus? I'm sure you can think of many other examples. My favorite example is me! "But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:7-8).
  • He encouraged His followers: All the promises in scripture, all the ways He comforts, exhorts and even admonishes.  His ministry on the earth was full of selfless service toward mankind
So with Christ as our friend, and Him as our example of a friend (by the way, that ^was not a true study of Christ's ministry---for all my scholarly friends!)...where does that leave us with all this friend business?

Well, besides Jesus being our great example, scripture also gives us other examples and great verses about friendship.  And (for those scholarly friends), John MacArthur teaches us that the Old Testament gives three different words for friend:

  • "rayah" -an associate, someone you keep company with.  English equivalent would be acquaintance.  Proverbs 18:24 "A man who has friends must first show himself friendly".  This is probably the majority of your friendships. And the majority of your Facebook friend list :).
  • "alooth" - to be gentle or familiar with.  This is taking the friend term a step further.  Close friends.  The ones you love to spend time with or remain close to even if distance comes between you.  These are usually few but precious.
  • "ahave" - intimate, close companion.  This is the friendship used in the second half of Proverbs 18:24 when it speaks about a friend(ahave) sticking closer than a brother.An intimate friend that you feel so blessed to have.  The ones that fit into the category of the old saying, "if you can count your true friends on one hand, you are truly blessed." This would also be in the category of comrade-a term my husband uses so much to describe those men who are friends that will stick by you, hold you up, and encourage you.  The ones who have a common goal and are in the realm of a Christian brother and fellow soldier for Christ!  The kind of intimacy so beautifully shown in the friendship of Jonathan and David. Ahave is also the word used in John 15 mentioned above.
So, yes (told you this was the long answer) we need friends in this life!  Christ was first the ultimate friend meeting our greatest need, but while we are here on this earth, He has given us three vital things:  His Word which is His love letter to us, the Holy Spirit who is our comforter, and His people to encourage and edify one another.  We look to Christ as our example.  We seek Him and His kingdom through His Word as to how we are to live, we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us in obedience, and we pour all that we have learned out on other people in order to imitate Christ and to be a biblical friend.



You know, this question was asked by a friend on her facebook page and, while I can't share all the responses she got (there were so many!), I thought some of them really captured the heart of why God has given us the treasure of friendships and why we "need" them:

"So that you know that you are not alone."

"Because the bible says,'Two are better than one,because thy have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.'"Eccl. 4:9-12

"Because they bless us, care for us, love us"

"Yes, so we can pray for one another"

"I've gone through seasons where I didn't have many friends, or don't see them...but in those times I did grow closer to God."

"It's quality, not quantity"

"Friends are the family God lets you choose"

"Friends are the beautiful blossoms of the tree of life"

"I think having friends helps us fulfill a higher purpose.  We serve our families every day but it takes more to be in the service of others.  Friends serve one another in many ways and when we are in the service of another, we are in the service of the Lord.  Many of His works are carried out through the love of friends."

I really love that last one!  To me that sums it up so beautifully!  If we follow the example of our Truest Friend, we will see that really means serving and loving others as we want to be loved.  Obeying the greatest commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind...and love you neighbor as yourself..."(Matthew 22:37-40) brings us to the essence and reason for friendship.

There is a great quote that goes like this: 

 I went outside to find a friend and couldn't find any and went out to be a friend and found many. (author unknown)


So do we need friends?  Maybe we need to step back and see that what we really "need" is not friends, but to be a friend!


So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  Philippians 2:1-30


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Well, the question, of course, was asked: "Do our kids need friends?"  Though all the same scripture applies, there are other aspects to this!  Would love to hear your thoughts and maybe we will tackle this question in an upcoming Wisdom from the Word!