"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow." ECCLESIASTES 4:9-10a

Although we have many brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, only a few of us have close personal friends. Here is a list of ten biblical characteristics of friendship. Strengthen and examine your friendship in the light of the Word of God. Don't try to do anything forcefully, but simply put it under God's loving instruction.

1. There are Only a Few Close Friends

"...there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." PROVERBS 18:24

We live in a covenant with all believers in the body of Christ, but with some we are particularly tied together through the Holy Spirit. Look at Jesus: He had His twelve, His three - Peter, James and John - and His one, John. This is not exclusion, but is the only way to practise friendship

2. A Friend Gives His Life

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." JOHN 15:13

Do not take this too spiritually. "To lay down one's life" means a readiness to put yourself last in order to serve the other person, instead of putting the other one in second place to serve yourself. It is the readiness to take the needs of your friend more seriously than your own. Think of John the Baptist:

"...but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice... He must increase, but I must decrease." JOHN 3:29-30

3. A Friend Knows You Deeply

"...but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." JOHN 15:15b

A friend is someone with whom you can be totally confident, take off your mask, and to whom you can slowly get closer and be yourself with. This takes time and is also risky, but this is the meaning of JAMES 5:16a:

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed."

4. A Friend Loves Unconditionally

"A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." PROVERBS 17:17

(In other words: he became your brother.)

5. A Friend Gives You Good Advice

"Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel." PROVERBS 27:9

To listen to the voice of God together with you, and not just for you, is another characteristic of a friend: "I have not got a clear line for you in this matter, so should we not fast and pray about this together?"

6. A Friend Speaks the Truth in Love

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." PROVERBS 27:6

The Bible tells us to "walk in the light", to have real fellowship with each other (1 JOHN 1:7). I have said the following to some of my friends: "I allow you to rebuke me, but please not with fists!" We all need somebody with enough love for us to tell us the truth about ourselves. Not only what we want to hear, but also what we need to hear as well.

7. A Friend Encourages You

"To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty." JOB 6:14

Job needed more than his own wife gave him: "Curse God, and die!" Sympathetic wasn't she? We all need encouragement, confirmation, and support in our Christian lives.

8. A Friend also Does Not Fear a Clash With You

"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." PROVERBS 27:17

Clashes cannot be avoided in such close relationships. The durability of a friendship will be tested; it will be seen if it is really welded together with the love of Jesus. We then have the choice of either drawing back, being offended and getting angry with that friend, or of solving the conflict in love.

9. A Friend is Delicate

"As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?" PROVERBS 26:18-19

To put it simply, a friend is aware of your sensitive areas. He refrains from sarcasm, mean jokes and exposures.

10. A Friend is Loyal (Stands by Your Side)

"...a whisperer separateth chief friends." PROVERBS 16:28b

"...he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends." PROVERBS 17:9b

In the hour of betrayal, with rumours and accusations, it will be obvious who really stands by us.

Would you like to have friends who have these kind of characteristics? Then ask the Holy Spirit to write them into your own heart, and start to practise them. When you try this, remember the friend who sticks closer to you than anybody else.

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them..." MATTHEW 7:12a

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