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TEXT: Proverbs 17:17
SUBJECT: Proverbs #11: Friendship
THE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP.
"Friendship" is one of the most over-used words in the English language. It is applied to nearly every relationship, from the most intimate to the most casual. Indeed, President Roosevelt always began his nation-wide radio broadcasts with "Friends..."
But we seek to use the word in a more restricted and Scriptural sense. "Friend" is the participle of the Hebrew verb AHAV, which literally means--in a wholesome sense--"Lover". Hence, our text could very well read, "A lover loves at all times".
Thus, when we speak of "friendship", we do not mean every non-violent, or even tolerable relationship you sustain...
But those special, loving, intimate ones so perfectly described in 18:24, "But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother".
THE OBJECTS (EXTENT) OF FRIENDSHIP.
The Christian is not to be the friend to just anyone or everyone.
Although such a statement may sound surprising to our ears, it is most agreeable to common sense. For "friendships" do not occur accidently. They are ordinarily founded upon two pillars:
Common interests. For example, you rarely find a married woman and a single woman as intimate friends. Why? Because they live in radically different worlds! Thus a discussion about "the latest news in diapers" is spell-binding to the former, but tranquilizing to the latter. Likewise, the Christian's main interests are God and holiness, subjects which are of no interest to the unconverted. If, therefore, you can speak freely to the wicked, but become tongue-tied around the righteous, there is something seriously wrong with you.
Common affections. Common feelings also bind friends together. Permit me briefly to illustrate the power of affections. You and I have much in common. We are the same sex, age, height, and weight. We grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same school, and do the same jobs. We joined the same clubs, support the same charities, and vote for the same candidates. You would suppose, therefore, that we would be the closest friends. But wait. One day you invite me to your house and upon seeing your wife, I exclaim, "You are the ugliest, stupidest, and most repulsive woman I have ever seen!" Question: Are you and I close friends? Of course, not! Why not? Because I hate whom you love. But the worst Christian loves Jesus Christ and the best unbeliever hates Him. Therefore, whatever their commonalities may be, they can never enjoy the most intimate of relationships.
But more importantly, such a doctrine is derived from the Word of God, which:
Absolutely forbids certain "friendships", e.g., 22:24, "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man, do not go". If you would go to the New Testament, you would find precisely the same doctrine. Ephesians 5:11, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them".
Scripture also warns of the evil consequences of such "friendships", as, e.g., in 22:24-25, "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man, do not go, lest you learn his ways, and set a snare for your souls." 28:7 is equally clear, "Whoever keeps the Law is a discerning son, but a companion of riotous men shames his father".
But beyond this, the Apostle refutes anyone who thinks otherwise, "Be not deceived, evil companionship corrupts good morals", I Corinthians 15:33.
This prohibition is so important, that the same Apostle makes it a test of acceptability to God! (II Corinthians 6:14-18).
The Christian, therefore, is not to be the "bosom-friend" of just anyone or everyone. But a word of qualification is necessary here, lest you misunderstand me.
This does not cancel ordinary human relationships. The Christian husband is to "Love his (unconverted) wife as Christ loved the church". The Christian child is to "Honor his (unsaved) father and mother", and the Christian is to "Love his (impenitient) neighbor as himself".
Furthermore, this does not permit us to mistreat the wicked, "Beloved, wrote Paul, "Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the LORD", (Romans 12:19).
Nor even to ignore them, "Therefore, Paul continues, "If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head", (Romans 12:20).
Nor are we to shun them or avoid all dealings with them. For Paul assumes that the Corinthian believers will, from time to time, be invited to dinner by their idolatrous neighbors, see I Corinthians 10:27, "If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for conscience' sake."
For the Christian is to be most benevolent to the unconverted, for at two reasons:
He is commanded to do so, Galatians 6:10.
In so doing, he imitates God, "Who makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust", (Matthew 5:45).
Positively, the Christian is to seek his intimate friends among other believers.
This is demonstrated, again, by mere reason. "Friendship" is based upon mutual interests and affections. But who has more in common than Christians? We have the same Father, the same Redeemer, the same Indwelling Spirit, the same Bible, the same faith, the same hope, and the same end. Therefore, we should naturally gravitate toward one another. If we do not, then we are inferior to the worst sinners, for even "The publicans salute those who salute them".
This agrees with the uniform witness of Scripture, as for example, Psalm 119:63, "I am a companion of those who fear You, and of those who keep your precepts". Malachi 3:16, "Then those who feared the LORD, spoke often one to another". I John 1:1-4. From this we learn that the Gospel has two goals: to bring us into fellowship with God and one another".
THE REQUIREMENTS FOR FRIENDSHIP, i.e., How can you become a friend?
Friendship requires self-sacrifice.
"Friendship" is no passive relationship. It requires real work by all parties. If you do not work at it, you will soon find it in ruins, 24:30-34.
This means that certain behavior is to be mortified, especially:
Selfishness, cf. 30:15 with 19:6. You must, therefore, ask yourself, not "What am I getting from this relationship?", but "What am I giving to it?"
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