Social media technology has captured the attention of the public by using the term “friend” and the concept known as “friendship.”  Facebook friends is a good example.  True friends are scarce. The old cynic who went about in broad daylight with a lighted lantern in search of a friend would have difficulty in finding a true friend. It has often been said: "I went out to find a friend, but could not find one there. I went out to be a friend and friends were everywhere." How does the Bible relate the concept of friendship? The Bible is as up to date as the newspaper.

The word “friend” is often used in the Bible in a variety of circumstances.  Rather than try to explain each Hebrew and Greek word translated into English as “friend”, a brief summary will suffice.  A friend is two people in a unique relationship.  For instance, Jesus was “a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” (Matthew 11:19), however there is no mention of Jesus being friends with the religious leaders of His culture.

 A friend is like a whetstone that gives keenness to the edge of energy and life. The Bible refers to life-giving friendship in terms of, "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). There are many examples of this kind of friendship in the Bible. We find David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, or perhaps Paul and Timothy just to mention a few. A friend can encourage when things are difficult, wearisome, or painful. A friend can comfort and advise during the trials of life. Friends make up for each others defects and they delight in their friendship.

Friends not only learn from each other, they help each other develop character. That process will always be demonstrated by faithfulness. One could not but be moved by the story of a soldier who asked his officer if he might go out into the "no man's land" between the trenches in World War I to bring in one of his comrades who lay grievously wounded. "You can go" said the officer, "but it will not be worth it. Your friend is probably dead and you will throw your own life away." But the man went. Somehow he managed to get to his friend, hoist him on to his shoulder, and bring him back to the trenches. The two of them tumbled in together and lay in the trench bottom. The officer looked very tenderly on the rescuer and then he said, "I told you it wouldn't be worth it. Your friend is dead and you are mortally wounded." The soldier replied "it was worth it." "How was it worth it" asked the officer. The soldier replied "it was worth it because when I got to him he was still alive, and he said to me, 'Jim I knew you'd come.'"

The cutting edge of friendship may be found in the form of wounds, encouragement, and faithfulness. Be a friend, it is worth the effort.

The fourth chapter of John is an account of Jesus as he encounters a woman at the well of Samaria. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews, but Jesus being a Jew, seemed not to despise them. As a matter of fact when Jesus went to Samaria, he went about to explain the gospel to a Samaritan woman. This woman was a prostitute and, no doubt, a disgrace to the community. Little did it matter to Jesus that this woman was a Samaritan and a prostitute. Did social peer pressure keep Jesus from going to Samaria. No! Just the opposite. He went to Samaria to give them the Good News of the kingdom of God and to be a friend to the Samaritans.

This century has produced an abundance of literature about the subject of friendship. Much of it has been and still is under the heading of Relational theology. This is an approach to Christianity that stresses the relationship of persons to persons rather than doctrinal belief and direct relationship to God. Religious leaders have been very successful in propagating this concept, but it proves to be counter productive.

The problem is that the biblical sense of friendship is lost to a utilitarian arrangement. People want to be friends and have friends because of the advantages afforded by the friendship itself. That is not biblical, nor is it a principle of ethics that is normative in any sense. Friendship results from the desire to serve, not to be served.

Where does this friendship business end? There is no end to friendship. It only has a beginning point. Older friends may depart and go to be with God, but the friendship remains. New friends must be made because there is always a desire for friendship to fulfill an emptiness that is often called loneliness.

Enrich your life by looking for friendships the way Jesus looked for them. He went to "out of the way" places like Samaria. He sought to be a friend to people regardless of their demeanor or circumstances in life. An English publication offered a prize for the best definition of a friend, and among the thousands of answers the winner defined a friend. "A friend, - the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out." Go to Samaria and be a friend.