Friendship could well be said to be one of the pillars of life; it is a relationship that is irreplaceable and essential in every human’s life. Therefore, it would be safe to say that we have all experienced friendship and can relate to having a close friend(s) at one point or other in our lives.

Based on our experiences, I hope we can all agree that friends form a crucial part of our lives and the kind of friends we keep have a lot of impact on our lives. The people we surround ourselves with shape us and have a lot of influence on us.

When I look back, I can clearly see the impact that godly friendships have had in my life; a positive impact especially in the last four years since I became born again. Therefore, Without the slightest doubt, I firmly believe that the friends we have determine to a great extent who we become.

WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP?

In his book, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes, “Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”

Most times, friendship is sparked by a common interest between the people involved. This common interest may be a common religion, common studies, a common profession or even a common recreation or leisure activity. In essence, friendship must be about something that brings the two people together even if it’s only something that may seem trivial like an enthusiasm for pets or a certain activity.

After friendship is discovered through a common interest, it needs to be forged. This can be likened to building a house on top of a pre-existing foundation, the foundation, in this case, being the discovered common interest between the parties involved.

For a friendship to thrive, there needs to be an investment of time and communication. Most friendships do not end up working because of lack of communication and investment of time especially when there is distance. Friendship also requires sacrifice which may be in terms of time or even money.

THE ESSENCE OF FRIENDSHIP

The Bible has a lot to say when it comes to the topic of friendship. The classic example on friendship that we read and that most of us are familiar with is that of David and Jonathan. In addition to that, the book of Proverbs has a lot of admonitions about friendship and friends we should keep. “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20).

From a biblical point of view, the essence of friendship is to help keep each other believing by keeping each other accountable, offering godly counsel and correcting one another in love. In our friendships with other believers, we find accountability in that we can share what is going on in our lives and find encouragement from our friends.

“See to it brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

Hebrews 3:12-13

Godly friendships are also a means that God uses for our sanctification through the counsel we receive from the godly friends He has placed in our lives. He uses our friends to correct us when we go wrong and to point out the areas in our lives that are yet to be conformed to the image of Christ. Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

We should have friends who tell us the truth even when they know it’s not going to be pleasant because love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). We should not be angry with our friends when they point out a weakness we need to work on or when they feel we are not going in the right direction. However, this should be done with love and gentleness.

I firmly believe that there is a need to cultivate “deep” and meaningful same-gender friendships with fellow believers.  By “deep” I mean friendships in which we are vulnerable and open to sharing our lives; to talk about the things we seldom tell other people like past hurts and even how we are really doing. These are friendships in which there is no putting on of masks but being real and vulnerable.

Such friendships are possible and very necessary for our growth and healing. For this to happen, we need to be intentional and to exercise wisdom and discernment because we cannot trust everyone especially with matters that are close to the heart. However, this comes naturally as a friendship grows.

While there is a place for cross-gender friendships, there is a lot we can gain from same-gender friendships. The reason I am stressing the need for such friendships is that there is a level of depth and vulnerability in our sharing that is not healthy in cross-gender friendships especially where the goal is to be “just friends”. Hopefully, I am going to talk more about this in another article.

I am especially concerned about same-gender friendships among us, men. While it’s easier for ladies to have such friendships, research shows that it is harder for men because most times men’s friendships are based on shared activities (e.g. sports, work) compared to those of women that are based on emotions and feelings.

Another reason why it’s harder for men is our upbringing and what society has taught us especially in our African culture. African culture tells us that a man ought to be strong and not to show any emotions which I believe is a lie and a misconception.

On the other hand, I am not saying that men should be wimpy. As men, we need to learn that being in touch with our emotions does not mean that we are weak. I believe that there is an appropriate way and space for men to express their emotions while still being men.

Another misconception that hinders same-gender friendships especially among men is the assumption that only a lady can understand us better but I have come to learn that this is not the case and is dangerous because it can lead to an emotional entanglement. For men, there are some things that only a man can relate to and the same applies to ladies.

I really hope that the importance and need for same-gender friendships sink in your heart as you read this, especially for the young men. We really need to be there for one another and to help each other learn and appreciate God’s design for us as men in terms of biblical manhood. The same also applies to the ladies when it comes to biblical womanhood.

My exhortation today is that we need to cultivate deep and meaningful friendships that keep pointing us to God because the essence of friendship is to keep each other believing. Let us not merely have casual friendships and acquaintances. Let us pursue and cultivate godly, deep and meaningful friendships.

This will mean that we become more intentional in our friendships and some of the practical ways of doing this are investing more time in friendships and being more vulnerable (of course with wisdom and time). Take that friend (especially of the same gender) out for lunch and talk and share life.

As we endeavour to do this, our focus should not be on whether we have great friends but rather if we ourselves are great friends. For us to be great friends we need to be there for our friends, to correct them in love and to offer godly counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

We are not to do this on our own or by our strength but we have the example of Christ who is the ultimate friend; He loves at all times. He has promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He hears us when we call upon Him and He wants what is best for us.

Perhaps you could take some time after reading this article to reflect on whether you have been a good friend and pray that God will help you to become a better friend and that He will send you the people (friends) that you need to follow Him.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this and you have found it insightful. Feel free to leave any comments in the section below and in case of any questions you can always send me an email.

Also, I found this sermon by Tim Keller on Friendship very insightful and resourceful. During your free time, you could have a look at it. Finally, don’t forget that for you to have great friends, you must first of all become one.