What True Friends Look Like
In the days before the internet, ham-radio operation was very popular. Individuals skilled with these radios placed giant antennae in their backyards or attached them to their sheds, and if you rode by on a bicycle in the evening, you could hear them shouting into the night, “Hello? Is anyone out there?” At times they’d be awake deep into the night, hoping that someone in the hemisphere would respond—hoping that eventually they might hear, “Hello, I’m in Anchorage, and I’m reading you loud and clear.”
Our conversations today, whether in person, via texts, or through social media, really aren’t that different. They all demonstrate a great yearning for friendship. We are all wired by God to look for others with whom we may be joined in intimacy and affection. So what are some of the characteristics of true friendship?
First, a true friend is always loyal. Friendship is not built on superficial or fleeting commonalities that might pass away. A loyal friend is prepared to be faithful through thick or thin, whether you are successful or unsuccessful, whether you enjoy the same movies or not, and irrespective of whether you have offended them or not. Even when you’ve made a real mess of things, they will be there to remind you that there’s still a reason for hope.
Second, a true friend is always honest. It is impossible to enjoy or even to establish friendship where there is dishonesty. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). When a friend wounds your pride by being honest about your sin, you know that you can trust them—their willingness to risk your disapproval in order to tell you the truth reveals that they are worthy of your trust. The honest friend looks out for your well-being because they long for your best.
Third, a true friend is sensitive. They choose their words carefully, unlike “the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking’” (Proverbs 26:19). They refrain from gossip, because gossip always separates friends (16:28). A sensitive heart will cover an offense (17:9) because such a heart understands that “love covers a multitude of sins”
(1 Peter 4:8). It’s not that such friends don’t call sin what it is, but that where matters of illegality or injustice are not at stake, they cast a veil of silence over our transgressions, much in the same way that our heavenly Father chooses to remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12).
Who is a friend such as this? Only one truly is this friend who “loves at all times”—your friend Jesus. Yet we are called not only to enjoy His friendship but also to imitate it—and with Jesus as our role model, we can learn to be true friends to those He places in our care. Whom has the Lord given you to be a friend to? What will it look like for you to show them loyalty, speak to them honestly, and treat them sensitively? What a glorious realization it would be for them to see that, in you, they have a friend who truly seeks to love them at all times.
Timothy and Epaphroditus
19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22But you know Timothy's3 proven worth, how as a son4 with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.
25I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
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