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
How many friends do you have? When I was in high school, I would’ve probably answered that I had around 15 good friends and 100 acquaintances. Sure I knew a lot more teens my age, but I wouldn’t call them friends at the time. I always wanted to have a big birthday party with lots of friends (and gifts) but we living a bit out in the country and it was also in an era before social media. Across all Facebook accounts, research suggests that the average number of friends across all those accounts is 338, though half of all Facebook accounts have 200 or fewer friends. Of course, the social media site caps your friend count at a reasonable 5,000 friends. That would make some birthday party and a big pile of gifts! Isn’t that what friendship is for?
This shouldn’t surprise you coming from me, but friendship is meant to draw you closer to God. It should keep you on track and give you encouragement and guidance, hope, and peace. Friendship is meant not just for entertainment or pleasure but for the purpose of bringing glory to God. That means that true friendship is the kind that drives you closer to him. It helps you serve him more fully. It teaches you and sustains you in the hard times. Good friends act as the hands and feet of God to each other. And God-honoring friendships reveal the love of God to the world that looks on.
I think that friends fall into three categories, and putting your friends in their right categories is super important in keeping those friendships in the right perspective. As you read or listen to the three categories, think about your closest friends and which number they fit under:
- Friends who are more spiritual than you
- Friends who are less spiritual than you
- Friends who are about the same as you spiritually
Friends in categories #1 and #3 are meant to influence you to maturity, while you are meant to influence #2. In other words, the goal for you as a believer is to be always progressing in maturity, not regressing. That means that the only friends who should have an influence over you are the ones who are at least as faithful as you are, if not more. Those who are less spiritual should be learning from your maturity. Chances are you have friends who are less spiritual than you, as we all should. These are the people God has given you to influence, to teach, and to encourage in the way of faith. They are the ones you are meant to invest in, in order to lead them closer to God. But if they are doing most of the leading, or even a hint of the leading, then you are making friendship more important than God. James 4:4 warns against that mistake when it says, “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Friendship is meant to glorify God by being a reminder of him, a tool for him, and a witness of him. So in the area of influence, all of it is meant to come from the most spiritual person in the room, not the least. If that’s you, then you should be the strongest influence in the relationship. Think about those people in your life who are less spiritual than you, maybe even don’t believe in God at all. Who leads the relationship? Who has the most say? The most sway? Who counsels who? Who comforts who? Who gives the best advice and the most grace? Thank God that he gives us friends to do life with! But also be thankful that God has chosen you to be an influence of faith in your friends’ lives and loving them with a pure heart. Don’t take that gift for granted!
Questions to ponder
What is the name of the first friend you can remember? Why were you friends?
What is the most important consideration for you currently when choosing friends? How can you get better at choosing friends?
Do you tend to lead your friends, follow your friends, or is it mostly give and take? Is your faith a focal point in your friendships or a footnote?