Friendship is a difficult thing…and something that I have not quite figured out. I do have someone whom I consider my “best friend”…my wife…and I would have a hard time spending a day without her. She is never far from my thoughts, and influences everything I do. I have had others whom I have called “best friend” but over the years have found that those words no longer describe the relationship. I have had those that I call “friends” and those I consider “acquaintances” and still more that are just people “I know”, but wouldn’t necessarily call them friends. When it says in Proverbs 18:24 that there is “a friend who sticks closer than a brother”, is it implying that there are different kinds of friends?…I think so.
I understand this verse is often taken to mean that Jesus is that friend that sticks closer than a brother. While it may be true that Jesus fits the description, I think this verse means more than that. Jesus does call us “friends” and He desires to be closer than a brother to us, whether He is or not is really dependent on us. But I believe this verse also tells us there can be those people in our lives whom he can work through to fill the role of “closer than a brother”. And that we can fill that role in someone’s life as well. This is not to diminish or replace Jesus in any of our lives, there is no one closer to you right now than him. But he is the model of what we should strive to be…and that includes what kind of “friend” we are to another person.
We all play a role in the life of someone else…and we play a different role in each person’s life that we are a part of; just as they play a role in ours. The part of that verse that gets sticky is the “closer than a brother” part. There have been very few people I have gotten that close to or allowed to get that close to me. I am not the most open person in the world and have not been the easiest person to be a friend to. Those that have been that close, (apart from my wife), are no longer close and those that I meet today and call “friends” may have the potential to be but life and circumstances and choices get in the way. And, to be honest, maintaining friendships…maintaining any relationship…is work, and few in today’s world are up to the challenge. It is far easier to “like” someone on Facebook than to pick up the phone and actually tell them that you like them….or even let them know you love them.
I know this has been a bit rambling but like I said in the beginning, I haven’t quite figured this out yet. But I have learned a few things about friendship:
- Friendships often transitory…they change and morph and often end
- While friendships are nice to have, they take work to maintain…some more than others
- The strength of any relationship depends on the one putting the least into it
- Good friends are few and far between…it is worth waiting for the good ones
- There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, following that example is hard
I have 8 brothers and sisters. I have been closer to some than others…allowed some into my life while keeping others at arm’s length. Right or wrong I think all 9 of us have done this for various reasons. I often wish this were not so but at this point in time am powerless to change it. It is how we have learned to relate to each other. I have also had some really good friends in my life…but circumstances and choices change things and those friends that I once called “best” or “great” have become little more than a footnote in my story – and I in theirs. I wish this were not so. I regret that part I have played in all of these relationships that have caused them to drift.
There are times in all of our lives when we know in our mind that Jesus is here with us but just can’t muster up the faith to believe with our heart that really is. It is these times when we could really use that friend who is willing to let Jesus to be closer than a brother through them. To sit with us, give us a hug, listen to our fears, and wipe our tears. And we need, at times, to be that friend as well. That is, after all, what we are here to do – to be Jesus to a world that cannot see Him, right? Well, sometimes I cannot see Him…and I know that sometimes you can’t either. This should be what friends are for.