What does a true Christian friendship look like? Let’s break it down into five traits that are easy to identify.
1. Christian Friends Love Sacrificially
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Jesus is the finest example of a true Christian friend. His love for us is sacrificial, never selfish. He demonstrated it not only through his miracles of healing, but more fully through the humble service of washing the disciples’ feet, and then ultimately, when he laid down his life on the cross.
If we choose our friends based only on what they have to offer, we’ll rarely discover the blessings of a genuine friendship. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” By valuing your friend’s needs above your own, you’ll be on your way to loving like Jesus. In the process, you’ll likely gain a true friend.
2. Christian Friends Accept Unconditionally
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)
We discover the best of friendships with brothers and sisters who know and accept our weaknesses and imperfections.
If we’re easily offended or hold on to bitterness, we’ll have a hard time making friends. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes now and then. If we take a truthful look at ourselves, we’ll admit that we bear some of the blame when things go wrong in a friendship. A good friend is quick to ask forgiveness and ready to be forgiving.
3. Christian Friends Trust Completely
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)
This proverb reveals that a true Christian friend is trustworthy, indeed, but emphasizes a second important truth as well. We should only expect to share complete trust with a few loyal friends. Trusting too easily can lead to ruin, so be careful about putting your confidence in a mere companion. Over time our true Christian friends will prove their trustworthiness by sticking closer than a brother or sister.
4. Christian Friends Keep Healthy Boundaries
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy … (1 Corinthians 13:4)
If you feel smothered in a friendship, something is wrong. Likewise, if you feel used or abused, something is amiss. Recognizing what’s best for someone and giving that person space are signs of a healthy relationship. We should never let a friend come between us and our spouse. A true Christian friend will wisely avoid intruding and recognize your need to maintain other relationships.
5. Christian Friends Give Mutual Edification
Wounds from a friend can be trusted … (Proverbs 27:6)
True Christian friends will build each other up emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Friends like to be together simply because it feels good. We receive strength, encouragement, and love. We talk, we cry, we listen. But at times we also have to say the difficult things our dearest friend needs to hear. Yet, because of the shared trust and acceptance, we are the one person who can impact our friend’s heart, for we know how to deliver the hard message with truth and grace. I believe this is what Proverbs 27:17 means when it says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
These five traits will show you areas that may need a little work in your effort to build stronger friendships. But if you don’t have lots of close friends, don’t be too hard on yourself.
Remember, true Christian friendships are rare treasures. They take time to nurture, but in the process we grow more Christlike.