There was a time when friendship was a fairly simple relationship. A friend was someone you liked and who liked you, someone with whom you shared your feelings and experiences and spent a good deal of time.

Today it seems that friendship is much more complicated. People try to attach too many strings to it. Friendship is a means by which you acquire status and become one of the In-group. A friend is not someone you like, but someone who is convenient for you.  Because of the number of meaningless relationships these days, we should understand what true friendship actually implies. It can probably be best understood by saying first what friendship is not.

Friendship is not self-centered. A friend isn’t demanding and selfish. A friend doesn’t exaggerate his own qualities or boast about himself and his accomplishments. He doesn’t rejoice over the problems of others or seek to run them down. A friend isn’t envious.

Friendship is not lustful. Have you ever tried to make a friendship rooted in envy or greed? Maybe you didn’t like Ann as much as her swimming pool, or George as much as his new Firebird. Maybe you thought Joe was dull and boring but found him very useful to have around when you were stuck with a chemistry problem or needed a paper to copy answers from.

Friendship is not finding fault. A friend does not judge all your actions or declare you guilty because you dated an ugly or unpopular classmate. A friend is not a jury.

Friendship is not dishonest. What would you think of a girl who told her friend that she just loved her new haircut and then behind her back breathed a sigh of relief that she was out of competition for a while?

Friendship is not a status symbol. Some people try to achieve, popularity by collecting friends: one cheerleader, one brain, one athlete, etc. To them a friend is a useful step toward social stature.

Based upon any of these elements, friendship will be an insincere, shallow relationship. It will be rooted not in the love of others, but in the love of self. What a beautiful way to break up a friendship!

Friendship is two-sided. It is a reciprocal relationship in which both persons must do a lot of sharing. A friend will sacrifice valuable time to help you understand a math problem. Not only will he listen to and help you with your problems but will also tell you his troubles. Friendship is a give-and-take relationship.

Friendship overlooks outward appearances. A friend is not ashamed to go around with a person who looks different. So what if John is uncoordinated or Donna is pigeon-toed! Friendship is based on inner qualities and feelings and goes deeper than a person’s looks.

Friendship is honest and sincere. This does not mean that one bluntly tells a friend that he hates his new pink tie, but that he tactfully hints to him that the tie doesn’t compliment his red hair. A friend is not motivated by a desire to hurt his companion but by a genuine desire to help him.

Friendship is personal and intimate. A friend is a friend because he is what he is, not what others imagine him to be. Friends tell each other their needs and desires, their ideas and their secrets. Friends share each other’s private sorrows and heartaches as well as their joys.

I don’ t mean to imply that friendship is a perfect relationship. Obviously even the best friends will have quarrels and misunderstandings. That is because by nature we are not humble and loving, but greedy, dishonest, and self-centered. We are inclined to love ourselves and hate our neighbor.

True friendship, therefore, must be rooted in the love of God. Our earthly friendships are only pictures of God’s eternal covenant. They are signs of the fellowship and friendship between God and His people in  Christ. Only if we cultivate our friendship in His love can we understand and experience true friendship.

When we face trials and temptations and our burdens seem more than we can bear, we shouldn’t be discouraged but should take everything to God in prayer. When we are weak and heavy laden, burdened with a load of care, we should count it a privilege to take it to the Lord in prayer. Even when our friends despise and forsake us, we can always turn to the Lord. In His arms He’ll take and shield us, and we will find a solace there.