By God’s grace, we once again embark on another year of school life. In school, we often find ourselves in the midst of unbelievers. This leads us to a very important question: To what extent should we befriend the ungodly?
The different types of friendships
Let us first consider the different types of friendships that exist. There are 2 types of friendships- the first is being with the world, and the second is with God’s people – His elect. We should be careful in mixing with the former for God clearly instructs us in various passages not to do so. (II Cor. 6:14-15) states, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers…, for what part hath he that believeth with an infidel (unbeliever).” Also, in James 4:4, the Apostle reprimands the people for committing spiritual adultery since they are married to Christ and in 2 Cor 6:13-7:1, we are once again instructed to have nothing to do with the “unclean” – the contamination and the filth of this world. We are called to walk a godly life in this world, but how can we do so if we mix with those who do not fear God nor keep his commandments? Our friends should therefore mainly be the people in the Church, the church which preaches the true word of God. This is so that our friendships are covenantal – friendships forged in the Lord. As Psalm 119:63 states “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.”
The beauty of covenantal friendships
Covenantal friendships are priceless and precious. They are friendships of praise and thanksgiving to God and of an intimate bond. Question and Answer 55 of the Heidelberg Catechism, for example, teaches us the importance of befriending godly people and using our gifts for people of the church: “What do you understand by the ‘communion of saints?’ Everyone must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, to the salvation and advantage of other members.” There is a need for us to make godly friends so that we can not only assist our fellow saints both spiritually and physically in this dark and sinful world, but also to be strengthened in the faith.
The Bible states a few examples of covenantal friendships: Jonathan and David, and Daniel and his three friends. 1 Samuel 18:1 describes the friendship between David and Jonathan:
“And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”
It was a friendship rooted in the Lord. When David was in trouble and in great distress, as Psalm 57:6 states “They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah”, Jonathan as a godly friend helped David and encouraged him in his grief.
Daniel and his 3 friends also shared a covenantal friendship with one another. They loved God, feared Him, and were faithful to Him. They defied the king’s decree and refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image even though the punishment was that they be thrown into a burning, fiery furnace.
The problem we face
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Who is our neighbour that God instructs us to love? They are those who come into contact in our life be it fellow saints in the church or even teachers or our boss in the office. When God calls us in Matthew 5 to love our neighbour, He wants us to esteem our neighbour higher than ourselves and to love them in the manner as Christ has first loved us. As Colossians 3:14 says: “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Love is a bond of fellowship; it is also total self-forgetfulness. The love for our neighbour is an emulation of the love of God towards us. It is giving no thought to me for the benefit of my neighbour.
The well-being of those we love
As Christians, the well-being of those we love is not only to help them in their time of need, but firstly to care for their salvation in Jesus Christ. We should also take every opportunity we can to witness to the unbelievers, both in our speech and with our life. As 1 Peter 3:15 says “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” We should, however, not neglect those who are Christians but belong to the false church as well. Rather, we should also witness to them and bring them along to a church that preaches the Truth in meekness and in fear.
The friendship that we enjoy with God in Jesus Christ is a friendship that we also share with all other believers. Psalter 370 beautifully versifies Psalm 113:
“Behold, how pleasant and how good That we, one Lord confessing,
Together dwell in brotherhood,
Our unity expressing.”
Let us therefore pray every day for strong covenantal friendships, friendships that are pleasing in God’s sight, for it is a blessing to be able to associate with His people. Meanwhile, may we associate with unbelievers only for the purpose of showing them the mercies of Christ, and loving them the way Christ loved us – not for our own selfish enjoyment, but only for their salvation.
Written by: Ruth Teo | Issue 6