I cannot imagine this life without friendship! It is a gift from God. When I think of friendship in the Bible, the first example that comes to mind is that of Jonathan and David. The bond of Jonathan and David was incredibly tight, and much can be learned from it.
Today, however, I want to focus on some enemies of friendship. Yes, even the blessed gift of friendship has her enemies! Satan wants to damage the relationships that God’s people have with one another. Most of us can reflect on friendships that suffered for one reason or another. It can be hard to pinpoint exactly what happened and why, because the enemies of friendship creep in slowly. They take the side door, so to speak, and disguise themselves in your feelings and emotions. In the lines below, I have highlighted four enemies that will hurt a friendship. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are four obstacles to guard against.
I have heard gossip referred to as the acceptable sin among Christians. This is a sad irony as we strive to live for the Lord. We reject other sins as gross and repulsive, but freely commit the sin of gossip. Ouch.
Most Christians are familiar with the passage in Titus 2 that highlights how an older woman in the faith can teach the younger. In verse 3, guidelines are given for the conduct of the mature woman. “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers…”
Being a false accuser is related to gossip. Sometimes when we talk about other people, our information is questionable at best. We repeat what we hear from a “reliable” source or from what we see on Facebook (it must be true if it is on Facebook!). Use caution when speaking negatively about another person. There is an appropriate time and a place to repeat information about another person, but often, our cause is not just.
I am “preaching” to myself here, friends! Just the other day I saw something on Facebook and literally snatched up my phone to text my sister-in-law and ask if she knew but had to stop myself when I realized what I was doing! It was public information, yes, but it was completely unnecessary to send a text that would have gone something like, “Okay, soooo maybe you already know this, but….” It probably would have been accentuated by several dramatic emojis, too.
Titus 3:2 reminds us “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.”
Proverbs 11:13 warns us that “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” A faithful spirit does not tell everything she knows!
Proverbs 12:23 exhorts us that “A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.” Prudence may be mocked by the world, but she dwells with wisdom (see Proverbs 8:12).
We may think that envy is not a problem in our lives, but we need to think twice.
Envy stems from discontentment in the life that God has given to us. Perhaps this is something that you have never struggled with, but I believe most women deal with it at some point in life (myself included!). Sadly, jealousy hinders friendships from developing and growing, especially when we allow our assumptions about people to affect our attitude toward them.
Paul shares his own testimony of contentment in Philippians 4:11. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
Have you heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses?” I often laugh to myself about it because one of my dearest childhood friends married a Jones. She is a beautiful woman and precious friend, and I aspire to be like her, BUT – life is not a competition! Learn to be happy for your friends when they are happy. A day will come when you may want to grab your phone and text your friend when something wonderful occurs in your own life! I can say from personal experience that it is an immense blessing to have friends who I can share my joys with. I know they will cheer me on. I know they will not resent me when good things come my way. I know they are praying rich blessings on my life. Be that kind of friend!
As children of God, let us desire good. Longing for the life that someone else leads is the opposite of what our Heavenly Father wants for our lives! “The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.” Proverbs 11:23
“Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:26
Social media and technology are not all bad, but they have wreaked havoc on true and meaningful relationships. Since our “friends” are always at our fingertips, we do not feel as pressed to intentionally keep in touch with them. Friendship should go beyond commenting back and forth on the latest meme.
We get so caught up in “self-care” that we forget to care for the needs of others. We are all busy; I get that. But are we so busy that we have no time to pray for our friends? I have personally learned that the Spirit prompts me to reach out to a friend after I have prayed for them, and I am sad at times when I realize that I have failed to lift their names before the throne of grace.
We will all pass through tough seasons of life when it is not our turn to reach out and minister, but rather to be the recipient. However, it strikes me that often the people amid trials are the ones pouring themselves into the lives of others. What an awesome picture of servanthood, which may well be the essence of friendship!
I’m not trying to be cliché, but seriously, what would Jesus do? Philippians 2:4-8 reminds us to care for others and presents Jesus as the perfect example. “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Another word from the Apostle Paul: “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.” 1 Corinthians 9:19
Oh, this is a hard one! Even the closest of friends will have misunderstandings and hurts between them. When an offense becomes the notorious elephant in the living room, you can sense that a falling out is imminent. Hurt feelings that are left unchecked quickly turn to bitterness. A small bump in the road has the potential to completely wreck a friendship!
Unforgiveness is sin, and when we continually harbor sin in our hearts, we are not right with the Lord. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” Psalm 66:18
When you struggle to love and forgive, an excellent book to read is 1 John. It is full of reminders that we cannot hate (or disdain, detest) our brother and love God at the same time. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 1 John 4:20
(For more detailed advice on handling offenses, read the words of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20.)
Gossip, envy, selfishness, unforgiveness – such ugly things! None of us want to harness ourselves with those enemies, but at times it happens. There is hope in God’s Word, however. We can overcome these struggles and be the type of friends God would have us to be. We can build lasting friendships when we conquer the giants standing in our way!
There are so many other Scriptures related to these topics, and I would encourage you to study them for yourself. We have been given a Living Word, that is the Bible. It is a Fountain that never runs dry, full of truth and wisdom for those who seek it. Ask the Lord to show you how you can be a friend to someone today.