Friendship: The Forgotten Love

When you think of the word “love,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a romantic dinner or a walk along the beach. Maybe a mother caring for her child or pride in one’s country or community. If you are a Christian, you may think of Jesus’s sacrificial death as the ultimate act of love. But there is one type of love that is often overlooked: the love of friendship. Why is this the case? Perhaps we don’t consider friendship a type of love. That notion may even make us feel uncomfortable, especially for us men, since our culture tends to romanticize or sexualize all relationships. Furthermore, while friendship can be enjoyable for many, at times it can seem almost unnecessary. In his book, The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis agrees when he writes, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.” However, what would life be without art, or without thinking deeply about reality? Aren’t those the kind of things that make humans different from animals? Perhaps the same is true of friendship. Lewis continues, “[Friendship] has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”1 The same way that philosophy and art add depth and enjoyment to life, so does friendship. Lewis certainly knew this well, as he was part of a famous group of friends, the Inklings. These men had a tremendous impact on his thought and writing, and ultimately led him to accept Christianity. In fact, one could argue that without his friends, there would be no C. S. Lewis as we know him.

The same way that philosophy and art add depth and enjoyment to life, so does friendship

Sadly, close friendship is becoming more and more of a rarity. In a recent survey, over ten percent of Americans claimed to have no close friends, with almost half having three or less. And although we live in the most connected time ever thanks to the internet and social media, we are also lonelier than ever, which has led to the increase in anxiety and depression in our society, especially young people. A lack of true friendship is destroying our health.

Friendship in Media
Although some of us may think that we don’t need friends, our media consumption tells us the opposite. Just look at the most popular shows and movies over the last few decades. The recent hit series Stranger Things is all about a circle of friends who rely on each other to battle supernatural beings. The critically-acclaimed The Lord of the Rings (written by Lewis’s close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien) shows the importance of friendship in the midst of hardship and despair, especially that of Frodo Baggins and the loyal Samwise Gamgee. The nineties hit Friends, which is simply a show about the commonplace happenings of a group of friends living in New York City, has had a resurgence in popularity among today’s young people. Why are such movies and shows so popular? Perhaps they resonate with something deep inside of us, that we desire true, meaningful friendships. Even if we have hundreds of followers and social media connections, we still need close, loyal friends who will be there for us in difficult times.

Friendship According to Scripture
Most importantly, the Bible teaches us how we need friends. In the creation account, after each day that passes, God proclaims that his creation is good. But even prior to sin entering the world, there is one thing that God said was not good: for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Although God created Adam a wife, the verse does not say it is not good for man to be unmarried, but simply that man ought not to be alone. We need others in our lives. When God took on flesh and entered human history, he began his ministry by assembling a group of disciples. In Jesus’s final message to his disciples before his crucifixion, he told them that they were no longer his servants, but they were his friends (John 15:15), and that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends (15:13). Frequently, the New Testament authors called their readers “dear friends” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 John 2:7). James tells us that Abraham was called God’s friend (James 2:23). What can be greater than that?

The Bible teaches the benefits of having good friends:

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

“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. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:912).

The Bible also warns of the danger of having bad friends:

“Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

“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” (Proverbs 22:2425).

Perhaps the greatest model of friendship in the Bible is David and Jonathan. Jonathan was the son of King Saul and should have inherited the throne from his father, but David was chosen by God to become the next king of Israel. We would expect Jonathan to be threatened by David and jealous of him. Instead, “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself” (1 Samuel 18:1). His love drove him to make a covenant with David and to protect David from his jealous father. Jonathan even gave his personal belongings to his friend. This displays the sacrificial nature of true friendship, how true friends put the ones they love before themselves. There certainly could have been jealousy and competition between David and Jonathan, but there wasn’t. These two men were committed to each other in the love of true friendship.

We Need Friends
It’s clear: we need friends. People who will be there for us when things are hard, to pray with us and support us, to celebrate with us, to challenge us, and hold us accountable. Even though we may know many people online and have hundreds of social media connections, how many of those people will really be there for us in a crisis? Who will attend your birthday celebrations, your wedding, or even your funeral? The challenge of friendship, however, is that it requires work and sacrifice. It requires openness and honesty. Maintaining a friendship may require humbling ourselves and admitting when we are wrong. A good friend may confront us with an unpleasant truth about ourselves that we may not want to face. That’s why the Bible says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6).

Maintaining a friendship may require humbling ourselves and admitting when we are wrong

The important question now is: How do I make friends? Sometimes friendships just happen, and sometimes they must be intentionally sought out. Friendships generally begin from common interests and activities. Think about the things you like best, and then ask yourself who you know who also likes the same things. Perhaps you could join a club or sport at school. Or, you can simply look for someone wearing a t-shirt of a favorite sports team, band, or television show and strike up a conversation with that person. Reconnect with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. As a Christian, it’s okay to have non-Christian friends. After all, Jesus was criticized for being friends with sinners (Matthew 11:19). However, he didn’t just hang out with sinners; he ministered to them. Remember that you want your closest friends, the ones who will influence you the most, to share the same convictions as you. Attend youth group, seek out a Bible study, join a community group. Don’t just attend church on Sunday, but get involved in a local Christian community. Friendship takes work, but it’s worth it.

Timothy Fox

Timothy Fox has a passion to equip the church to engage the culture. He is a part-time math teacher, full-time husband and father. He has an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University as well as an M.A. in Adolescent Education of Mathematics and a B.S. in Computer Science, both from Stony Brook University. Tim lives on Long Island, NY with his wife and children. He also blogs at