What makes a good friend? Harry Nilsson liked his best friend so much he wrote a song about him.
“People let me tell you ’bout him he’s so much fun.”
Fun. Is that the mark of a good and godly friend? There’s a new trend on Pinterest among today’s youth. Perfectly posed pictures of “friends” laughing and seemingly having a fantastic time are pinned to the walls of countless teen girls. These photos teach them to believe the main mark of a good friend is how fun they are. Friendship envy has always been a problem among women but I think these pictures create an even deeper desire to have the “perfect” friendship. Adult women aren’t immune to the deception either. Many times, pictures of this sort cause us to focus on the surface qualities of a friend. Do they make us laugh? Do they dress well? Do we have the same interests? But a godly friendship holds much more depth than a great sense of humor and a fun personality.
Here are 5 marks of a godly friend:
1. A godly friend cares about your relationship with God
True, Christ-like friends want to see you grow in your faith in God. They long to see victory and triumph as well as confession and repentance. Because of their commitment to your spiritual well-being, a godly friend will fight on your behalf through prayer and encouragement. They will tell you the truth in love, even when it hurts. Friends who set the Word of God before you in your trials and struggles are friends who care for your soul.
2. She rejoices with you
Godly friends will strive to rejoice alongside their friends over the gifts God has given them. Rejoicing comes easily until it doesn’t anymore. When a close friend receives what she deeply longs for, a woman truly following after Christ will lean into his strength, enabling her to rejoice with her friend even as she grieves her own circumstance. These two things—grieving and rejoicing—can coincide, though it is a balance beam of the heart.
3. A godly friend enters into your suffering
Truly entering in and choosing to remain present in someone else’s suffering is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard, tricky work that requires much prayer and wisdom, as well as a sacrifice of time—something many of us aren’t willing to give if we’re truly honest with ourselves. A godly friend knows it will require all these things and yet takes that step anyway, surrendering themselves to the possibility of pain on behalf of someone else. You know who else did that? Jesus. No one has borne our burdens like he has (Isaiah 53:4). He left all the beauty and perfection of heaven in order to enter into the suffering of sin-saturated men and women.
“…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 ESV)
Throughout the Gospels, we become witnesses to Jesus doing just that. He touches the leper, cares for the outcast, weeps with and over his people, and most shockingly, dies their (and our) death. He entered in, and we were made all the better for it.
What would happen if we sought to lay aside our comfort and truly enter in to the pain of our friends?
4. She recognizes she isn’t perfect
Another mark of a godly friend is her acknowledgement of her own sinful heart. No one needs a friend who pretends she has no struggles or sin issues. We all have sin in our hearts. Not one of us is perfect (1 John 1:8; Romans 3:10). Pretending we are can lead others to feel isolated in their struggle against sin. One mark of a healthy friendship is the commitment to share struggles with each other in order to pray for and keep one another accountable.
5. She forgives
A godly friend forgives. She doesn’t hold a grudge or gossip about the situation to others. Instead, she mimics Christ’s forgiveness, knowing she has been forgiven of much. Don’t be like the unforgiving servant in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 18:21-35).
Striving to be a Godly Friend
As Christ-followers, we should all strive to be this kind of friend. Let us follow after the footsteps of our Lord and seek to love others well. We weren’t set on earth for our own glory, but for his. And he calls us into deeper fellowship as we serve our friends and others around us.
Looking for a good book on friendship? One of my favorite books is “Messy Beautiful Friendship” by Christine Hoover.
Biblical Friendship is messy, but it’s worth it.