Prov 27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
Prov 27:10 Do not forsake your friend and your father's friend, and do not go to your brother's house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near
than a brother who is far away.
Prov 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. ESV
True friendship is hard to find. Many of us are more functional than relational in our attitude towards others. We relate only on a functional basis: viz., as classmates, as colleagues, as cell mates and as church mates. But once we are no longer in the same class, or same company or same cell or congregation, the relationship is over. There is no more commitment to seek the other person and sustain that relationship. In fact, the other person is forgotten. The adage, "Out of sight, out of mind" applies to many relationships we now have.
But true friendship is marked by the following characteristics:
- Honesty (Prov 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.): True friends seek to promote our welfare, not their own. So, they are prepared to risk rejection by being honest in telling us where we have gone wrong. However, by that doesn't mean giving people "a piece of my mind". That is more like foolishness than friendship. True friends speak honestly but with gentleness and respect. Of course, even when spoken gently, truth about our shortcomings will hurt--but they are faithful wounds. In contrast, those who are out to take advantage of us may flatter us so that we will give them what they want.
- Counsel (Prov 27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.): Just like the fragrance of oil and perfume that gladdens our hearts when we smell it, so also is a friend who can give us good and sound advice. A good friend is willing to share his experience and knowledge with us because they don't see us as their competitors but as friends.
- Availability (Prov 27:10 Do not forsake your friend and your father's friend... Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.) Friendship is about availability. We know a true friend (or we are true friends) when we are available to our friends in need. We are never "too busy" to meet up with a friend who needs our help and counsel.
- Purposeful (Prov 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.): Friendship is also about sharpening one another--to help each other become better and more effective in our family, work and ministry. When friends meet to talk, they seek to build up each other and challenge each other to reach greater heights, not just indulge in casual and social conversation. Friendship is purposeful and intentional in its objective--to seek the friend's personal and spiritual growth.
We can only have true friends by becoming true friends ourselves.
Lord, You have declared that You are our Friend, not Master. Thank You that Your friendship is always honest, always helpful, always available and always intentional. Help us to share the same friendship with those around us. Amen.