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Opener: “Life is short and its finite and it plays for keeps” as Jeffrey Kluger says in his TED talk on siblings. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ for this journey we call life. Proverbs concurs with this assessment. Come learn how to find friends and how to be a better friend yourself.
Meaningful Friendship: Companions for the Journey
Proverbs – Week 7
I had the privilege of teaching through some of the themes in Proverbs this past summer. I have been summarizing what I learned and posting it here on Life Letter Cafe each week for the past six weeks. This is the final week, and we will close out the series by considering friendship. For additional posts from previous weeks, check out my Life Letter Cafe author page. In true Proverbs fashion, I have attempted to keep each of these points short, punchy, and powerful. As promised, if you have been reading along with me since the beginning (Meaningful Life on 8/29/2018), you will notice that this final week ends with the same alliterative adjective (“meaningful”). This is called an inclusio (opening phrase repeated at the end), and it is one of the many literary and mnemonic devices that Proverbs employs to make its wisdom memorable.
Hopefully, what you have discerned over the past seven weeks is that Proverbs has a lot of wisdom for the areas of our life where we need it most. As our culture becomes “post-truth,” it is good to have a solid foundation upon which we can build our lives. Very few individuals have that anymore. But we know the Creator of this universe, and, since He created it, He can tell us how to “cut with the grain of life” (Ortlund, “Teach the Bible: Proverbs,” TGC, Nancy Guthrie, 6/30/2016).
I hope the past seven weeks have given you a taste of some of the wisdom contained in Proverbs for each of these themes. Think of what I’ve written as merely an introduction or a conclusion to each of these topics. They just begin to scratch the surface. As you continue to “do life,” you’re going to need companions for the journey. So, this week’s truth? Meaningful friendships: companions for the journey. Godspeed. Go forth with grace and peace.
The Truth in Proverbs about Friendship:
I owe a good deal of content from this week’s them to two sources, both of which I highly recommend if you are going to do additional study on the book of Proverbs:
- Derek Kidner’s Commentary Proverbs (pp. 44-46)
- Tim Keller’s Devotional God’s Wisom for Navigating Life (pp. 164-169)
So what does Proverbs have to say about friendship?
- Intentional (Proverbs 18:24) – If you are an adult, it is highly likely that you don’t make adequate time for cultivating close friendship. But time (that little thing that we never tend to have enough of) is one reason siblings are so close. They are thrown together for hours and hours and they have a common experience upon which to draw. If you are going to have a friend that sticks closer than a brother, you must be intentional about making time for such things.
- Pleasant (Proverbs 27:9) – There is a sweetness to friendship that is rarely desired, but often missed. When you don’t have it, you don’t miss . . . at least, not until you have it again. Then you realize just how empty you were without it.
- Marks of a Friend:
- Constancy (Proverbs 17:17, 19:6-7, 20:6) – the nature of true friendship is that it is unconditional
- Transparency (Proverbs 27:5-6) – real friends do open rebuke
- Sensitivity and Tact (Proverbs 25:20, 27:14) – true friendship requires friends to be tapped into one another’s emotional state (i.e. it is difficult to be joyful when my friend is struggling); this also means that, when you do the open rebuke of Proverbs 27:5-6, you’re not a jerk about it.
- Counsel (Proverbs 27:17) – beyond the open rebuke, this is general counsel for the betterment of one another and the friendship
Finding Christ in Proverbs
Christ modeled this for us with His disciples. But even twelve was a difficult number to maintain the sort of unconditional, transparent care and concern necessary for deep friendship; so we see Jesus experience this sort of closeness with only three of the twelve disciples. Additionally, Christ spiritualizes the familial relationship of “brother and sister.” He becomes the “firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29), and He tells his followers that “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister” (Matthew 12:46-50). His desire is that we would experience this sort of familial closeness with one another in the local church!
In the age of digital media, it is very easy to think we have lots of friends. But how many true friends do you have?
What can you do to cultivate such friendships? What kind of friend are you?
How well do you take open critique and rebuke? Are you able to be transparent with others? Are they able to be transparent with you?
For a consideration of how we build friendships by treating one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, see chapters 8-9 of my book The Relational God:
A more detailed investigation and outline of each of these themes in Proverbs can be found on my blog:
For additional posts, check out my Life Letter Cafe author page.