To a large degree, our world has lost the concept of friendship because we no longer value absolute truth spoken in love. We want so-called friends to accept our flaws and failures, without pointing out our part in those failures. We seek acceptance without accountability, but that is not the bedrock of true friendship.
True friendship is built on love. But love without accountability is futile and shallow, a mere wading pond compared to the deep, unending river of real love. And sadly, many people today miss out on the deep waters of true friendship while wading around in the shallows, searching for mere acceptance.
Friendship is a treasure, and to find that treasure, a person must be willing and wise enough to both speak and hear the truth. Proverbs 27:5-6 puts it this way, “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Accordingly, most of us are blessed if we have even one friend who loves us enough to speak the truth in love. I have two such friends, and a while back, I took a quick weekend trip with those two cherished friends.
I won’t call them old friends because we do not consider ourselves old. I will simply say we have been friends for over four decades. We met in sixth grade and graduated high school in 1980 – if that tells you anything.
We try to get together three to four times a year if possible. But due to obstacles and family issues, both large and small, we had not seen each other in several months. So, a getaway weekend was long overdue and badly needed.
Lots of times, we plan our little trips weeks in advance and travel to quaint tourist spots. But this time, we quickly planned a very uneventful weekend with no specific agenda or scheduled activities. We just met and spent some time together at a beautiful cabin in the woods. It was absolutely perfect.
I cannot explain how quickly the pressures and problems of life fade away when the three of us get together. It is an immediate release. It’s like time fades away and we are just three giggly girls again, with nobody else pulling on us or prodding us to do anything but be right there in the moment.
We know each other so well – the good, the bad, the ugly, and all the in-between – and yet, our insecurities and shortcomings fall away in total peace. It is so hard to explain how easy it is to just be together. We always find ourselves laughing and talking incessantly, with a few tears added in along the way.
I think the longevity of our friendship is due to several factors. First of all, we are all Christians, and Jesus Christ is a great rock upon which to build a relationship. Iron truly sharpens iron, and His truths guide us to be more mindful of each other.
Secondly, as the old saying goes, we are as different as daylight and dark. But we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In fact, if the truth is told, we know each other’s deepest, darkest sins, as well as the consequences we have each suffered because of those sins.
But we also know the price God paid for the forgiveness of those sins, and we have each experienced the sweet, undeserved mercy and grace found in Christ alone. Maybe that is what binds us tightly together as friends – the true and perfect, totally selfless love of Christ. Yes, it always comes back to Him, for He is the only One who can save us, heal us, and set us free.
During these visits with my friends, God has been known to use the truth of His Word, spoken on the lips of my dear friends, to get right to the heart of my problems. And most of the time, the heart of the matter is most definitely my own heart issue with God. So inevitably, our little weekend retreats often turn into a time of heart adjustment.
They speak the truth to me pretty quickly, and I do the same for them. But I never have to worry about my truths being shared abroad, because like 1 Peter 4:8 states, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” And Proverbs 17 also says, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.”
My friends have me covered during these times of rest and retreat. We speak the truth in love, confess our sins one to another, pray together, and move on – covered by the love of Christ and the friendship we share in Him.
You may not have a friendship like this, but have no fear for Jesus is “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (or sister). And in this very same verse of Proverbs 18:24, we are reminded that in order to have a friend we must first prove ourselves friendly.
Yes, friendship is a costly endeavor. But Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says it best, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”
So, take the risk, and be that kind of uplifting friend to someone today.