I wonder what's on your mind as your eyes scan these words. What's going on in your life? Are you resting in joy or struggling to take a breath? I wish I could sit down with you, hear your story, and offer a warm hug with a smile.
Because that's what friends do, right?
Well, not always. As friends, we're often selfish. Sometimes we love because we want to gain from the other person. We complement to make people like us. Even something as beautiful as friendship can be turned into a way to promote ourselves.
That's what this post is about: I want to be the most loving friend I can be. No, these qualities coming up aren't a list of my complaints, saying what I wish other people would do more of. I'm not writing to point a finger. They're what I want to develop in my own life. They're what I'm lacking. And I hope you also want to love as Jesus loves.
I fail in this a lot. But with God, everything is possible.
(and please note that many of these are personal thoughts. I will not say any of them are complete truth unless backed up by Scripture, but I also strive to be open about what I've learned in life.)
This is longer than most of my posts.
But real friends read to the end, right? haha.
a friend steps out to love others
Yes, introverts, I'm talking to you. Being friendly isn't easy (trust me, I know!), but when we step out to offer a smile and a kind word, it can make a huge difference. If I never stepped out at that wedding, I wouldn't have made a new friend. If I never talked to the girl sitting beside me on the pew, I wouldn't have known that she needed prayer. Stepping out is huge!
a friend seeks the good of others rather than their own promotion
They are willing to love just for the sake of blessing others. A friend understands that it's not all about having fun or being popular - it's about being a blessing to that person. They have a pure love for others.
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart...
This also means that a friend is willing to hurt for (and with) their friend. They are willing to be vulnerable for the sake of being an encouragement to just one. They'll make sacrifices. Because they love that much.
a friend listens before speaking
Have you ever listened to a conversation just enough to come up with a witty response? Then your brain ignores the rest of their words. You have something to say! What's on their heart isn't as important.
Just read through a few chapters of Proverbs to discover the truth.
Whoever guards his mouth and tongue
Keeps his soul from troubles.
Which leads to another point.
a friend doesn't need all the answers
Sometimes a listening ear means so much more than words of advice. We need to listen to their problems and love them stronger because of it, but we can't think we can fix their life by shoving our answers down their throat. It's really not what they need.
Yet if a friend is clearly living in sin or if you feel a need to challenge them in an area of life, be brave to open your mouth with words of loving confrontation.
a friend will confront or challenge in love and never tolerate sin
Confrontation is never fun. (it hurts too) But what special relationships are built with friends are willing to be open and honest with each other!
Recently, a friend challenged me to reconsider several areas of life. We were able to discuss them together and share where we stood in those areas. Even though we don't agree in every area, it's okay. I know what she believes and she know what I believe. Being completely open makes friendships so sweet.
And, to visit the reverse, a friend should accept confrontation gracefully.
It reminds me of two other Proverbs.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend...
As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
And yet, a friend shouldn't point out unnecessary flaws. It's okay if your friend has a habit you don't like or if something about their appearance catches your eye. Don't point it out. Just love them. If something isn't sin (and you do not feel that confrontation would be loving in a Biblical sense), it's okay to keep your mouth shut.
a friend strives for understanding
What's your friend's love language? If an online person appreciates personal touch or acts of service, this could prove to be difficult. Yet there are so many ways you can bless a person only by knowing who they are.
Each person is unique and beautiful, created in the very image of God. What a honor that you can get to know them! Seek to understand your friend's struggles, fears, gifts, talents, and hobbies. And support them in their giftings! Even if you can't relate with their outlook in life, take time to appreciate their talents.
I have a brother in computer security and another who sings classical music. While I cannot directly relate with their abilities, I want to know and understand them because they're two of my best friends! I don't know every opera composer, but I can take time to listen to their songs. Because that's what I want a friend to do for me.
But certainly, don't start meddling in the other person's life.
a friend doesn't impose herself or have to know everything
It's hard to accept that our friend has...well, other friends. We're not the center of their lives, and it's okay to not know everything that's going on. They're living their own lives. It's good for us to seek to understand and love them, but don't force them to live answering your texts.
a friend makes their friend know that they are loved
However you do it, make sure they know. Send a card, give a gift, squeeze your hug extra tight. People need to know that someone's out there who cares. Who knows if that smile could save a life?
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
(to see the warning for those who don't love, read verse 8!)
a friend prays
They don't forget. If a friend asks for prayer, a true friend should write it down and remember to do it. They should be able to say like Paul,
...without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day...
Okay, so you don't have to pray all day and night for every single person you know (if you did, that would be awesome!). But prayer is so important, and it's often underestimated.
Ask your friends how you can be praying for them. And then do it. But don't just stick with friends. If you just met someone, ask what they need prayer for! God gave me the chance to do this yesterday, and it meant so much to see the tears in her eyes when she found out that I cared. ♥
a friend always points back to Jesus
They offer Godly support. They direct conversations to eternal matters. They share the Gospel. A friend cares about more than earthly things - they want those around them to flourish in Jesus and to love Jesus more than themselves.
The relationship between David and Jonathan is a beautiful example of friends encouraging one another to what really matters. Amidst persecution, confusion, and fear,
Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God.
a friend forgives
This isn't only forgiving the silly friend who texted you back and said, "you texted the wrong number", making you panic and frantically try to find who you DID text.
That definitely didn't happen to me today. It goes deeper.
Jesus forgive the people who shoved nails into His hands. Could we do that?
a friend loves
Because Jesus loved us. How could we not love others?
This is the second greatest commandment in the Bible - to love one another. And what's better than loving a friend in the Biblical view of 1 Corinthians 13?
Friendships are priceless treasures. Relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ should be a great source of joy, encouragement, and truth. But it starts with us - are you a true friend?
Let's talk! What aspect of friendship do you struggle with most? Is there one I forgot to mention? Who is a friend who has been a real source of Christian love to you?
(and if you made it through this entire post, congrats! You're a great friend! Here's a hug. *hug*)