The term ‘fake’ is in the news a lot these days, a term generally associated with US president Donald Trump. However, have you ever wondered if your friend is real or counterfeit? On the other hand, is it OK if I call you my friend? What qualifies us as friends? Well, let us understand what true friendship is. One definition of friend is, ‘a person who you know well and who you like a lot, but who is usually not a member of your family.’ We often hear people say, ‘S/he’s my best/oldest/closest friend – we’ve known each other since we were very young.’ Or we’ve known each other since kindergarten.’ ‘He’s a family friend/friend of the family.’ ‘This restaurant was recommended to me by a friend.’ ‘We’ve been friends for years.’ Tom and Jerry are (good) friends of ours’ or ‘we are (good) friends with Peter and John.’ ’I’ve made a lot of friends in this job.’ Alternatively, ‘He finds it difficult to make friends.’ When most of the above is the case, we accept as the norm without question. When the latter is the case, we often try to find reasons why someone is friendless. Even try to offer up good reasons why this is so. Nevertheless, the lists of friendship quotes stretches, without labouring, I think the point is obvious. In addition, what it reveals is that we use the ‘friend’ phrase very loosely. Likewise, it is obvious that there are differing levels of ‘good’ as well as ‘false’ friendship so whom do we trust? Let us engage the issue together.
Most of us at one time or another in our life journey, has encountered one or more ‘fake’ friends, but they never outnumber the ‘true’ ones. Those people who falsely claim to be something, feel, or do something they can be called fake. When our friend acts sweet but spreads rumours about us when we are absent, we can say that they are fake. They are the ones we must identify and recuse ourselves. ‘Fake’ when used as a verb, means to take an action with the intent to deceive, to misrepresent the truth, as you know it. Alternatively, these people are only our friends when s/he needs or wants something from us, or when it suits their cause. Whatever it is they want, do not have to be money or material things, maybe some news or juicy gossip about someone, friend or foe. After s/he gets what they want, s/he ignores you until he wants something else. Now hear this, the best of us fall prey to their conceited attitude, until our eyes are open to their folly, or after we are burned whichever comes first. Untie the knot, loose them!
Friendship is something we can never live without; we all need a friend in good times and in bad. Someone who sticks closer than a brother does! What does the Bible say about Friendship? How are we to choose our friends? How should friends treat one another? All of these are good questions and the Bible has some good Scriptures to study to answer them. ‘One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’ (Prov. 18: 24). Now you understand why some seemingly unshakeable, unbreakable, friendships end in such public shame and disgrace. It is because it takes time, through let downs and heartaches to know who really are our friends. Time proves their value and worth, their longevity is a testimony to their importance. Yes, some friendships have to go through trials, much burning will take place for truth and dependence to be realised. Yes, some friends are only so by name, their actions prove anything but. Those we can do without, free ourselves from, break the shackles they have on us, as their very presence in our lives spells ruin, heartaches and trouble. So why do we keep them, when they only cause us hurt? Of course when our eyes are open and we attempt to separate from them, they become angry with us for wanting to leave, we become the problem, not them. ‘Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered… or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.’ (Prov. 22: 24-25). Therefore, we have a just cause to separate ourselves. Fake friendship can be disastrous to our state of mind, our personal wellbeing. Hear this; be careful whom you call your friend.
Friendship is viewed highly valuable in the biblical story of David and Jonathan. We understand from the biblical narrative (1Sam. 18:1), that Jonathan loved David. However, it was not until Second Samuel (1:26) that we fully understand the solemnity of this friendship. Here we read how David has lamented after Jonathan’s death, in which he said that his love for Jonathan was more wonderful than the love of a woman. Some bible watchers erroneously interpreted these passages to advocate a homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan. However, this spurious interpretation should be rejected for at least the following reasons.
Of paramount importance, we are all familiar with the three words in Greek expressing three levels of love, Agape (unconditional love), Phileo (brotherly love, friendship) and Eros (erotic love). Hebrew actually has four words for love, but they are not always translated as love. You have Ahav (love), Racham (tender mercies) Dodi (beloved as spousal love), and Ra’ah (brotherly love, or friendship). It would be wrong to try to make a parallel between the Greek words for love and the Hebrew words, which creates a real problem in translation as love is at the very root and centre of Scripture. I suppose we could say the closest to Ahav is Agape, Ra’ah is like Phileo and Dodi is like Eros. Yet this would not be accurate as Ahav is used in cases where Agape would not fit, Ra’ah, although rendered as friendship, is also rendered as Shepherd and consuming passion and is often used by David to express his love for God, so it would be very inappropriate to consider Ra’ah equivalent to Phileo in many cases.
Israel’s King Solomon uses Dodi toward his adored to express a sexual desire, but it does not carry the lustful, self-gratification of Eros. Likewise, there is a fourth word in Hebrew for love and that is Racham, which is often expressed as a romantic love or rendered as tender mercies. Though this message is not about homosexuality, we can with confidence say that the word ‘aheb’, (aw-hab’), ‘ahav, for ‘love’ used here is not the typical word used in Hebrew for sensual activity. The closest word in Hebrew for erotic ‘love’ would possibly be ‘Dodi.’ However, ‘aheb’ is used and possibly has some political and diplomatic meanings (1Sam. 16:21; 1Kings 5:1).
Additionally, David’s association of his relationship with Jonathan with that of women was possibly an allusion to his experience with King Saul’s daughter, as he was promise one of Saul’s daughters for killing Goliath. However, Saul continued to add conditions on the marriage with the essential wish to have David killed (1Sam. 18:17, 25). The friendship Jonathan showed to David was superior to anything he could have received from Saul’s daughter. Moreover, the Bible plainly and unfailingly condemns homosexual practices (Gen. 1:26-27; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:18-25). Commending a homosexual love between David and Jonathan would be controverting the prohibitions found all through the Scriptures.
Therefore, the friendship between David and Jonathan was a pure covenantal relationship. We understand David and Jonathan forming an agreement from reading 1Sam. 18:1-5. In this agreement, Jonathan was to be second in command in David’s future reign, and David was to protect Jonathan’s family (1Sam 20:16-17, 42; 23:16-18).
Obviously, this indicate that the men were very good friends, and in this friendship we observe a few ‘friendship’ qualities, ‘sacrifice, loyalty, defence, and expression of emotions’ qualities that define true friendship. First in (1Sam18:4), we see how Jonathan gave David his clothes and military garb. The significance of this gift was that Jonathan recognised that David would one day be king of Israel. Rather than being envious or jealous, Jonathan submitted to God’s will and sacrificed his own right to the throne. Second, (1Sam 19:1-3, we read of Jonathan’s loyalty toward and defence of David. King Saul told his followers to kill David. Jonathan rebuked his father and recalled David’s faithfulness to him in killing Goliath.
Finally, Jonathan and David were also free to express their emotions with one another. In (1Sam 20), we see a plan invented by Jonathan to reveal his father’s tactics toward David. Jonathan was going to practice his archery. If he told his servant that the arrows he shot were to the side of the target, David was safe. If Jonathan told his servant that the arrows were beyond the target, David was to leave and not return. Jonathan told the servant that the arrows were beyond the target, meaning that David should flee. After releasing his servant, Jonathan found David and the two men cried together. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). This is an age-old unbreakable truth and evidence in the friendship of David and Jonathan, disaster did not separate them.
Rather than being evidence for a homosexual relationship in the Bible, the account of David and Jonathan is an example of true biblical friendship. True friendship, according to the Bible, involves loyalty, sacrifice, compromise, and yes, emotional attachment. That is the message we should learn from the narrative of David and Jonathan. The idea that the only person in the Bible described as ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (Acts 13:22), was a practicing homosexual (or a bisexual man) is someones faulty hermeneutics, and clearly ridiculous. An absurd idea which has no true biblical basis.
As with David and Jonathan friendship, some people came into our lives to add value, but clearly, some are only there to shame and embarrass us, to take, and to destroy our name, image and standing, which are you? Jonathan was there for David, in good times and in bad, when King Saul, Jonathan’s father attempted to kill David Jonathan did not side with his father, but shielded David. If you are never there when your friend need you, a shoulder to cry on, to help find a way, can you really call yourself a friend. If you killed him/her by your spite and lashing tongue, how you call yourself a friend? Jonathan never turns his back on David, what kind of friend turn their backs, ignore the cry for help, leave at the time that you are needed the most? Would David have died if Jonathan weren’t there? Being a friend in need and indeed? If Jonathan were not standing by David, when he was struggling, he would be in serious trouble. Likewise, if you were not standing by us when in our struggle, do not expect us to find you when we succeed. David when he eventually sat on the throne set out to fulfil the promises he made to Jonathan’s household, because of the true bond they share.
What is Jesus view on Friendship? “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:12-15). Not only is love a command, but it is closely linked with friendship. You reveal your all to your friends. So that only someone close to you, a considered friend can truly hurt you! The true friends will not, but will lay down his life for us! Christ is a true friends example of love and faithfulness.
Human destiny, humanity’s future is never tied to those who abandoned and left us at difficult times in our lives. It is not that those who leave are bad people, like John Mark, who abandoned Paul, when things got tough on the missionary road. It means that they have already played their tune, sing their song, and act their part in your story. Remember the saying, “when one door is closed, another is open”, I say many are open!
British author, theologian and poet C. S. Lewis asked this question, ‘Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?’ Lewis went on to advise that, ‘Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.’ So, as someone once ponder about what to do if we find ourselves trapped in a hole in the ground beneath a massive rock that we cannot move, and have no hope of being rescue? His advice is we meditate on and ponder the view of how lucky we are that life-cycle of friends has been good to us up to this point in time now absent, because we hurt them. Otherwise, he said if time has not been good to us thus far, which given our existing situation appears more possible, we should reflect on how blessed we are that the friendship we lack will not be distressing us any longer. ‘Woeful waste makes woeful wants,’ was one of my mom’s favourite quotes. I since have understood that this can apply to any situation in life. If we spend our time acting unfriendly, causing ruin, destroying those souls who acted friendly towards us, when the evil days come, when the massive rock of life circumstances surrounds, pins us down, who will be there for us, who will we call on, or who will be there standing by our side?
True friendship does not need daily conversation, telephone calls, or even weekly home visits. This kind is the David and Jonathan kind, it is from the heart, and though out of site, they are not out of mind. Though near are far, you are assured and reassured of their continuing, stick-to-it-iveness, they never part. Just call, they will tell you, and I will be there, before you can say, ‘Cat on a hot tin roof.’ My Christian friends know this that the durable link of friendship is not always a stable comparison, because true friendship is not always about giving and taking in identical manner. As an alternative, friendship is rooted in a sentiment that you know accurately who will be there for you in times of trouble. “When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathise with him and comfort him” (Job 2: 11). The person who never shirks or shies away when you need them or something, no matter what the value or what time of day or night the call comes is what true friendship is all about. Jobs friends demonstrated that.
Hubert H. Humphrey, American politician and former vice president once said, ‘the greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.’ Most of us can identify with this sentiment. At one point or another in our lives, we experience what it is to have friends. The world as it is, is filled many loveless, abandoned and forsaken souls, the suffer fear and dread, they need a friend. You, I, we all can join hands and hearts together, to help fill that void in people’s lives, the kind that governments cannot provide. So make a commitment today, make an effort to share a moment, or a smile, give friendship to somebody in need. Give true friendship, which is that symbol of love, someone will appreciate. Be a friend to Jesus, by being a true friend to a suffering depressed soul! You will find it is worth the effort.