Summary: Discern Friendships and Maintain a Special Respect for Those Who Are Close to Your Family
We only have one chance to raise our children. I would hate to get to the end of it and have to say, “Boy, that strategy sure didn’t work very well.” It might be ok to try some new ideas out when it comes to decorating the house or golf, but when it comes to children we must not play games. Let’s do it God’s way.
Godly friends are truly a gift from God. Aristotle said, “The antidote for fifty enemies is just one friend.” Isn’t it amazing the power and energy one good friend can give? An anonymous writer once said, “There are big ships and there are small ships but the best ship of all is friendship.” I can tell you that your ship will sink if you don’t have good friends. Godly friends are absolutely imperative. We may have but a few intimate or close friends over our lifetime, so we must be careful to discern and choose the ones that have a positive influence versus a negative one.
Solomon links friends to family, and gives inspired instruction on how to discern friendships. He tells children that they should be good to family friends and should always hold a special place in their heart for godly friends of parents.
1. Understand the Levels of Friendship
According to this verse, there are brothers and then there are neighbors. By this distinction, Solomon is discerning different levels of friendships. He advises not to go to your brother during tough times if that brother is not especially close or if he is not a Christian. It’s true you may have a blood relationship, but it would be better to go to a godly friend that you have fellowship with and that there is a closeness to. It is not necessary that our family members be our closest friends (especially if they are not on the same wave length spiritually), though it is a blessing when family are friends and godly as well. When Jesus started His ministry, He picked a rag-tag group of twelve men you might call, the good the bad and the ugly! Among these disciples, we have a pair of brothers, James and John. Not only were they blood brothers but also co-ministers in the Lord. What a privilege it must have been to be able to minister together and to be friends that are family as well.
Friendships are very important for us, and they are very important to God. The reason they are important to God is because they have such tremendous influence on us. We’ve seen this in our raising children over the years. Friends, perhaps more than just about any other source, have influence on our children. That’s one reason, for example, why my wife and I allowed our elementary children to attend a Christian school but then chose to have our high-school youth homeschooled. Why? Because of the very real possibility of negative peer pressure, especially during the teen years. We always felt like we could sacrifice a little educational quality if need be, for a higher moral quality. I know in the end if they are able to read well and they become motivated, they WILL get an education on their own. However, you can’t re-teach morals, it’s a onetime shot. Let’s not take a chance at having some rebellious Absalom steal the heart of our son or daughter.
It’s vital to understand levels of friendships and the responsibilities we have within those levels. Here is a friendship outline that I heard years ago that is sure to be a blessing to you as it has been to me.
There are 4 levels and responsibilities in Friendships:
Level 1- Acquaintance
An acquaintance is an occasional contact. Like the folks we meet at the mini-market, the UPS man or customers we serve. There are some good activities we can do with them: learn their name, asking them general questions like, “Are you married?” or, “Do you have children?” or, “Where do you live?” We have to relate to “bad” people because we’re all bad at one time. The only way we can become good is if we get saved! So, when we meet people, no matter how grouchy or how out right nasty they are, if we can, we should try and break through that ice. I have kind of made this my little “hobby.” When I’m forced to deal with a negative person that I meet at a store, for example, then I make it a goal to try and make this person smile. We can relate to anybody at this level, and we should. Because it demonstrates acceptance and it helps them know we’re God’s people. Even just a smile can be a great witness for God.
Level 2 - Casual Friendship