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Pastoral Exhortation - Series of 2010

Biblical Advice For Cultivating Good Friendships

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Good friendship is very vital in life. The Scripture sanctions and encourages good friendships. The book of Proverbs, in particular, provides some valuable advice on friendship. Godly friendship can be an inspiration in life. It can cheer us to great and wonderful experiences and achievements.

But cultivating and maintaining a good friendship is not easy. It can be easily destroyed if you take it lightly. Godly vigilance and efforts are required. I would like to share with you some biblical advice from Proverbs to help you cultivate and strengthen good friendships.

Be pure in heart

According to Proverbs 22:11, purity of heart is crucial in cultivating friendships. “He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.” The Hebrew word for “pure” (tahor) is used in the Old Testament almost exclusively for sacrificial and moral purity. This word occurs many times in Exodus and Leviticus with reference to the tabernacle and sacrifices. In all those rituals, the purity which was required by God was not just external appearance but the inward attitude. This is exactly what we see in this verse too – “pureness of heart”. Our inner motives in all our dealings with people must be pure, and if it is so, God will bless us with honourable friendships.

While we interact with our friends we must not allow our hearts to cherish any deceitful, angry, violent, unforgiving, greedy, jealous, selfish or lustful thoughts towards them. These thoughts would not only result in quarrels and destruction of friendships; impure thoughts and actions will soon make us appear like those who are unworthy of others' honour, respect and support.

Be gracious in your speech

This is yet another important counsel that Proverbs gives us to help us to strengthen our bonds with our friends. This is found in the second part of Proverbs 22:11. It says, “for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.”

The kind of graciousness (hen) in this verse is the kindness of a superior shown toward his inferior, who has no real claim for gracious treatment. In other words, even when we are right and the other is wrong we must be gracious enough in our words to win the person and to prove to him that you are a friend who wishes the best for him.

In every human relationship, there will be offences and hurts. Unless we are ready to forgive one another, we can never grow stronger in any friendly relationship. We must deal graciously with those who wronged us, and with meekness.

Galatians 6:1, speaks about our attitude toward those who have fallen into sin or offences - “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

But this can’t be achieved without pureness of heart or graciousness of speech. Remember the order of the counsels in Proverbs 22:1. First, pureness of heart, and then graciousness of speech. This truth is repeated in Proverbs 15:26 – “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.” Once your motives are pure and your words express graciousness, even the king will desire to be your friend. So watch how you speak with friends. Most people are careless about their conversation with close friends. This can lead to rude and hurting words. Remember that impure thoughts of lust, anger, etc. can also lead to unpleasant conversation, which destroy many years of friendship. It is important therefore to examine your heart before you speak your mind. If there is any ungodly attitude, you better overcome those thoughts, and pray for grace to speak graciously.

Be wise to accept criticism

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Here, a friend is placed against an enemy; wound against kiss, faithful ones against deceptive ones. We must not think ‘kisses’ or pleasant tokens of love are the only experiences that can come from a loving friend. In fact, a kiss or expression of love can also come from an enemy, and wounds from a friend. Most of us would easily accept the kisses and reject the wounds without considering the actual nature of the source.

Proverbs repeatedly says that a wise man would accept criticism, correction and instruction (cf. Proverbs 8:33; 9:8b-9; 12:15; 19:20). It is very foolish to reject a friend who corrects us.

Be a wise counsellor

Proverbs 27:9 says, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” A good friend will give apt counsels to the other, which will ultimately bring joy like perfume and incense which bring joy to the heart (c.f. I Sam 23:16).

In fact, Proverbs 27:17 suggests that friends engage in mutual criticism. The image in this verse is striking; as knives are sharpened by other tools of steel, so friends can sharpen one another by the exchange of ideas, and constructive criticism.

There are friends who praise us all the time, and pay no attention to correct us when we are wrong. Such flattering is not beneficial to us, in fact it would lead us to great dangers. A warning against flattery is found in Proverbs 29:5 – “A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.” (c.f. 27:14). A true friend must be willing to rebuke when it is necessary.

Conclusion

There is no fast and easy way to good friendship. As Christians, we must desire to have friends who would help us in our walk with God. Likewise, we ourselves must be an encouragement and help to their pursuit of godliness. Let us never be a distraction or hindrance to our friends’ spiritual progress. So pray for one another.

Pastoral Exhortation