The Root of Biblical Friendship is Fellowship

There are two things that are universally experienced by the human soul; the pangs of loneliness and the warmth of kinship. As women, we naturally crave genuine relationships; this  is how God designed us. Primarily to be in the right relationship with Him.

The Godhead, from eternity past has lived in perfect relational unity. In His aseity, God has never needed man to satisfy His need for relationship. [1] When God walked in the garden, He gifted Adam the privilege of relationship with Him. It is only natural then that those created in His image would desire to be in fruitful relationship with other image bearers. Friendship is an innate desire, and for the Christian, it is vital to the flourishing of the body. 

Not all friendships are created equal.

This is a hard truth for many of us to reconcile when considering friendships. It is especially difficult for those who have come to Christ later in life and find that the majority of their relationships may be with those who do not know the Lord. We are never called to neglect those in darkness, rather we are called to go and tell the world the good news of the gospel. The friendships we have with non-believers are always opportunities for gospel proclamation. 

But we must also acknowledge that these friendships will in an essence be limited because we do not share in ultimate fellowship; that is fellowship with Christ. The relationship that light has with darkness must be limited and approached with discernment. 1 Corinthians 15:33 gives this sobering reminder, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ [2] Friendships that often lead to temptation or to a pattern of falling into sin are friendships worth limiting. 

At the root of all Christian friendships should be fellowship

John Piper summarizes fellowship like this, “Fellowship is a mutual bond that Christians have with Christ that puts us in a deep, eternal relationship with one another.” [3] In scripture the Greek word for fellowship is Koinonia which is also translated into “communion.” Every believer is in communion with Christ which is what enables communion with other Christians. [4]

Therefore for a biblical friendship to be edifying, it must be built on shared communion with Christ. Koinonia is a necessary component to any God honoring friendship. This completely turns on its head the universal notion that friendship’s sole purpose is to benefit oneself. Biblical friendship is never hedonistic in nature; it is focused on the other person. 

How to be a biblical friend

A great friendship found in scripture is that of Jonathan and David.  When Saul sinned and the Lord took away the kingdom from him (1 Samuel 15) Jonathan did not covet his inheritance but rather acknowledged David as the anointed one. This led to the formation of a deep friendship where both David and Jonathan’s brotherly love resulted in a shared loyalty formed at great personal cost and in times of trial. [5] What an inspiring story of genuine friendship! The integrity with which Jonathan and David behaved can be a model for us. This begs the question; what about their friendship is so intriguing and beautiful and how can we emulate it?

God honoring friendships point to Christ. They are a means of grace through which we may be sanctified and be used to sanctify others. Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17) and mutual fellowship allow for the thriving of all involved; it helps us to be the friend we desire to have but it also assists us in being perceptive when pursuing friendships. 

The following 6 traits are foundational for proper Koinonia:

Love

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,” -1 Peter 1:22

Our modern culture mistakes love for an emotion when in fact it is a commandment. Love is the root of the great commandments which Jesus summarized as love for God and love for our neighbor. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 summarizes love in this way,  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Brotherly love is the tangible manifestation of love for God, it is the natural outcome of worship and should be the foundation for all genuine friendship. 

Honor

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” 

-Romans 12:10

Merriam Webster defines honor as “a showing of usually merited respect: recognition.” [6] Scripture calls us to honor, not because of someone’s role or achievements but simply because they are an image bearer, and as a sibling in the faith their sin debt has been bought by Christ. When we honor our friends we acknowledge the Lord who made them, when we tarnish their reputation or seek to dishonor them we dishonor the Lord in whose image they are made. 

Service

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 

-Galatians 5:13

There is no better picture of service than that of Christ, who emptied himself in order that we may be full. True biblical friendship embodies the gospel by seeking the interest of others above our own. We are called to sacrificially serve one another in order to emulate our Lord. His example of putting the needs and desires of others before His own should inspire us to give of ourselves. To not give only what is comfortable, but even beyond while trusting in Him to sustain and fulfill us.  

Admonishment

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” -Proverbs 27:6

In a culture that prioritizes peacekeeping above peacemaking, it is critical to give careful thought to how we can live honestly with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Part of this means bringing the word to bear in each other’s lives by correcting and rebuking each other in humility. The Holy Spirit often uses us to bring sin to light in each other’s lives. This can be incredibly uncomfortable, but we are encouraged in the word that a good friend faithfully brings correction and is someone to be valued, not despised. 

Forgiveness

“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” -Luke 17:3-4

In light of the cross and the fathomless love with which the Father has lavished on us, His children, we must approach Christian friendship in a spirit of forgiveness. Given enough time all friendships experience friction. Rather than keep a record of wrongs and hold grievances against our siblings in Christ, we are called to forgive quickly and completely. This is to be based upon the mercy we have been shown not the sincerity (or perceived sincerity) of the offending party. 

Exhortation

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. -Hebrews 3:13

Godly encouragement must be a hallmark of our relationships as the body of Christ. Exhortation can be rightly defined as urging our brethren to greater trust, faith, and obedience in, and to Christ. This is the essence of fellowship and indeed of Christian friendship. Through encouraging one another to put our faith in Him, we help each other abide in the vine in whom we all find our ultimate joy and fulfillment. 

My exhortation to my sisters reading this is to strive to be a godly friend. Go deeper, pursue genuine friendship and enjoy the blessing of godly fellowship. 


References:

[1] Why God Demands Worship. (2017, May 19). Ligonier Ministries. https://www.ligonier.org/posts/why-god-demands-worship

[2] ESV Bible Study. (2001). Crossway.

[3] Piper, J. (2017, April 19). We Need Each Other: Christian Fellowship as a Means of Perseverance. Desiring God. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/we-need-each-other

[4] GotQuestions.org. (2021, April 26). What is koinonia? https://www.gotquestions.org/koinonia.html

[5] David’s Great Friendship. (2010, July 21). Ligonier Ministries. https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/davids-great-friendship

[6] honor. (2021). The Merriam-Webster.Com Dictionary. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/honor


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