Theology Thursday: God in My Friendships

friends in a circle praying together

Throughout the scripture, God’s people are given instructions about friendship. The life of Jesus and the actions of Job are both good indirect teachers for those who want to be godly friends. Besides the life examples of Jesus and Job, others, such as Paul and Solomon, taught by giving direct advice. Thinking of Christ and the way he was toward people, it is important to learn from him how to be a friend. Who is hurting around you? Does anyone care? Who is listening? Who is helping? Does God have a representative to address this person’s pain?

In This Article:

The Importance of Friendship: Learning From Job and Jesus

Throughout the scriptures, God’s people are given instructions, directly or indirectly, about friendship. The life of Jesus and the actions of Job are both good indirect teachers for those who want to be godly friends. Jesus and Job taught by example whereas Paul and Solomon, as well as others, taught by giving direct advice.

The book of Job shows how some friends act very hurtfully and how a godly friend can respond. Job’s friends spoke unkind, judgmental words about him while he struggled during the toughest time of his life, when he needed hope and encouragement. In the end, Job prayed for his friends, forgiving them for the pain they had inflicted and asked God to forgive them. Developing that kind of capacity for withholding retaliation and showing compassion is a virtue that would be beneficial today.

In the Gospels, Jesus was often seen befriending those who were on the periphery of society. Notably, the love he showed the children who were considered a nuisance and the compassion he showed for the Samarian woman who was marginalized for a variety of reasons demonstrate Jesus showing love to those who needed it. He was also accused of befriending the sinners and tax collectors, those who were judged and labeled showing they were not to be treated well. Clearly, he had friends with whom he spent a lot of time, but he also befriended others. 

Finding Good Friends

Solomon and Paul gave helpful advice on choosing friends. Solomon, teaching his son wise behaviors, wrote, "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray," (Proverbs 12:26, ESV). In Proverbs 22:24-27, he says that one should choose friends who will not encourage anger, deceit or borrowing money. In a similar fashion, in 1 Corinthians 15:33, Paul says a person should avoid bad company. Avoiding people with these traits will help a person to be of good character.

Being a person of high moral character and choosing to surround oneself with people who also hold these values puts one in a good position to a live a productive, positive life. According to Solomon, choosing well will also produce wisdom, as opposed to foolishness and harm that is produced when one is a companion of fools (Proverbs 13:20).

Being a Good Friend

Having chosen well, it is important to be the friend one needs to be. Paul says that Christians should be friends who will encourage and build up others, especially those who are struggling (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Personal challenges are rampant, and God’s people need to strengthen and reinforce each other during hard times. To do that well, it is important to remember to be patient and to forgive offenses (Colossians 3:13). Even those who truly care about each other will be insensitive or directly hurtful from time to time. Peter says in I Peter 4:8 that the way to forgive others’ offenses is to love them deeply. That admonition can be very difficult to follow, but love needs to be the source of helpful friendship.

Being the friend God intends includes carrying each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:20). Friends who are weighed down by sadness, stress, confusion, rejection, discouragement and other oppressive loads need friends to help shoulder the load. That ability to share their load is built on an awareness of their need, which is based on having spent enough time and paid enough attention to notice that they are struggling. It also entails a willingness to expend emotional energy caring about their pain and grief.  

Another way of being a friend is in Hebrews 10:24, taking the opportunity to actively promote the friend’s growth in love and good deeds. One of the benefits of having a relationship in which one is “spurring the other” toward healthy Christian growth is that both friends can grow from the experience. Proverbs 27:17 says that "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." Being in such a relationship is helpful to both parties.

Having developed a loving relationship, friends can give and receive good advice. Proverbs 27:9 speaks of the earnest counsel of a friend. Until the relationship has progressed beyond casual acquaintance, advice is often not welcome and even after the friendship has deepened, it can present a challenge, but at a certain point, a thoughtful and earnest word of counsel may be appropriate. Job’s friends probably did not intend for their advice to be hurtful, so it is important to remember that advice should be given sparingly, earnestly, humbly, gently and kindly while love should be shown generously, abundantly and caringly.

Job also says that God values friendship and those who withhold it are disregarding “the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14). According to this verse, instead of keeping to oneself, God expects his people to be friendly and to be especially kind in their relationships.

Befriending the Marginalized

Thinking of Christ and his relationships with close friends and others, it is important to learn from him how to be a friend. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” (ESV). Giving one’s life in the case of Jesus involved dying for his friends. Today, it may mean taking time from one’s busy schedule to care for someone else. Being aware of the suffering of others is key to loving the way Christ loved.

Finally, making oneself aware of the people who are intentionally or unintentionally marginalized and left to suffer alone, and showing them God’s love and friendship directly addresses an axiom from Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 10, “Two are better than one. . . but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up,” (ESV).

Read more Theology Thursday blogs and check out other degree programs and theology minors. Visit GCU’s College of Theology and fill out the form on this page to learn more.

Approved by faculty for the College of Theology on Feb. 27, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.


Scroll back to top