By Clarence L. Haynes Jr., Crosswalk.com
If there is one thing I can say in my life, it is that God has blessed me with some wonderful friendships. I don’t say that to be boastful. I say that to be thankful. After choosing a spouse, choosing your friends is one of the most important relationship decisions you will ever make. The old saying is you don’t get to choose your family, but you get to choose your friends. Every friend you have in your life is there because you want them to be (this might be a little scary when you think about who your friends are).
The truth about friends is they will affect your life because these are the people who are closest to you. Their access to your life is going to lift you up or tear you down. They are going to help you move closer to the Lord, or they will move you away from him. This level of influence in your life makes choosing friends so critical.
For today, I want you to read this article with your closest friends in mind. If you don’t have friends or you have made bad choices in choosing them, then pay close attention. There is a lot of wisdom to gather when you consider what the Bible says about choosing friends.
What Does the Bible Say about Friends?
A good place to begin is by seeing what the Bible says about friendship. Here are some verses that speak to this topic.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).
“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice” (Proverbs 27:9).
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up”
These Scriptures remind us of how valuable good friends can be in your life. With this in mind, it is time for a friendship checkup. When you think of your friends and compare them to the verses we just read, how do they stack up? As you ponder that, don’t rush through the question, but give it serious consideration.
What Does the Bible Say about Choosing Our Friends?
As you think about your friends and how they measure up, let’s turn to Scripture to see what the Bible says about choosing friends. Here are five Biblical factors you can incorporate into choosing your friends.
1. Choose Carefully - The Process Matters
You are giving your friends a seat at the table in your life. Since there are only a few seats that are close to you, be careful about who you give them to.
2. Choose Wisdom - Their Influence Matters
“Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble” (Proverbs 13:20).
Since your friends are going to influence your life, look for friends who bring wisdom to the table instead of foolishness.
3. Choose Reliability - Their Dependability Matters
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
A genuine friend is there for you when you need them. People who are unreliable do not make for good friends.
4. Choose Levelheaded - Their Demeanor Matters
“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”
All I can say is if a person is quick-tempered and flies off the handle easily, run from them. These are not the friends you want in your life.
5. Choose Integrity - Their Character Matters
“I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).
“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
This goes back to influence. If you are around people who lack character, it won’t be long before they tempt you and even expect you to fall in line. Avoid these people at all costs.
Are All Friendships Beneficial?
Without question, all friendships are not beneficial. However, all friendships are influential. The aim is to make good choices in choosing friends because the people you hang around will affect your life. That’s why you must consider the things we mentioned earlier.
You might wonder how you can tell if the friendship is beneficial or not? One way is to consider how you feel after being around that person. Do you feel encouraged, inspired, motivated, or joyous? Or do you feel exhausted, questioning why you are around this person? The nature of the conversations you have and the activities you engage in will speak volumes about the direction this friendship is taking you. If the direction satisfies you and leaves you better off, it is beneficial. If it does not satisfy you or makes you worse off, then it might be time to move on.
Can Christians Be Friends with Non-Christians?
The short answer is yes. Christians can be friends with non-Christians. But there is a caveat which goes back to influence. If you discover that being around this person or having this person in your life is causing you to act or behave in an ungodly or unholy fashion, then it may be time to let this friend go.
With friends, sometimes it is necessary to put them into different categories. You can still be friends, but you may have to be friends from a distance. There is a good friend of mine who is not a Christian. One thing we have in common is sports, as we are both big sports fans. My friend is also single and likes to engage in activities that are not conducive to a married man and sometimes a Christian man. While he is still my friend, I choose to keep a healthy distance between us for my sake. All your unsaved friends will not be this way, but you must pay close attention to see if their life is affecting yours.
By the way, this is not just true of unsaved friends. Sometimes your Christian friends can be just as unhealthy to be around, so again, watch the level of influence.
What Should We Do if We Need to End an Unhealthy Friendship?
If there is an unhealthy friendship in your life, you need to end it and do it quickly. The best way to end an unhealthy friendship is with distance. This can mean physical space between you, as in you don’t hang around them anymore. It can also mean virtual space between you. This means you stop calling and texting. You can choose to tell them if you wish, but if you find that too difficult to do, then after a while, the distance will make the message clear for you.
A Prayer for God to Give Us Good Friendships
You have created us to be in relationships with each other. I ask you to lead people into my life who will encourage, challenge, motivate, and even correct me if need be. Help me find the right type of friends who will be a positive influence in my life. Friends who will add joy and laughter but who will also inspire me to draw closer to you. Give me wisdom when people present themselves as potential friends so I will know who to let in and who to leave out. Help me not to just find good friends, but to be a good friend as well. I thank you in advance for answering this prayer.
As you think about choosing friends, there is one last thought to leave you with. What kind of friend are you? When you evaluate the role and influence you have in your friends' lives, how does that look? Are you adding to their lives or subtracting from it? When you look at all the Bible says about choosing our friends, let’s make sure we are the type of friend people would want to choose. After all, if you want good friends, it should begin with you being one.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/jacoblund
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.