Who are my friends?
May I say, “My unbelieving classmate is not my friend”? May you say, “My unbelieving schoolmate is not my friend”? May we say, “Only believers of the Lord Jesus Christ are our friends”?
Those are strong words to say.
But are they true? Are such classmates not our friends? Are unbelievers not our friends? Who are your friends? Who are mine? What truths from God’s Word make the above statements true?
Before we know who our friends are, we need to know what friends are. The friends that we speak of in this article are true brotherly and sisterly friends that Scripture describes in the following two ways.
First, such friends are people who share the same likes and dislikes. Under inspiration, the prophet Amos wrote: Can two walk together, be friends with each other, except they be agreed (3:3)?
Second, these friends are also people who help us when we need help. Solomon wrote, a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17). Out of love for us, a friend helps us in our adversities (that is, troubles).
We know such people are our friends, because God, our Covenant-Friend, is such a friend. As our Covenant-Friend, God has made us holy, so that we like and dislike the same things He likes and dislikes. For example, we delight in obeying God’s Word, just as God is pleased with such obedience. Also, we hate taking God’s name in vain, just as God hates such a sin.
We know friends are those who help us also because, as our Covenant-Friend, God helps us when we need help. Do we not read and sing in the Psalms that God is our Help (see Psalm 40:17; 46:1; and 121:2 for some examples)? Let us recall just one Psalm versified in our Psalter:
Hide not thy face from me, In wrath turn not away, My help and saviour be, Forsake me not I pray;
Should father, mother both forsake, The Lord on me will pity take.
Only believers are our friends. Is that true? Test that with what we know about friends.
A friend is one with whom we share the same likes and dislikes. Believers are our friends, because we share with them the same spiritual likes and spiritual dislikes.
Note that I said spiritual likes and dislikes. You may enjoy studying history, while your friend likes biology. You may enjoy a game of soccer under the sun, while your friend prefers a game of Rook under the air-con. You may like rice, but your friend would only have potatoes from the cradle to the grave. You and your friend may enjoy different earthly things.
Yet, you two can be friends, because the likes and dislikes you have in common with your friend are spiritual. Both of you enjoy of going to church on Sundays to hear the preaching of God’s Word. Both of you share the same enjoyment studying the Scriptures together. On the flip-side, both of you share the same dislike of using the “OMGs” and vulgarities of the world. Both of you do not enjoy the world’s music and movies.
This is what Amos meant when he wrote about two being agreed. To be agreed means to share the same spiritual likes and dislikes.
A friend is also one that helps us. Believers are our friends, also because they help us when we need help.
What kind of help do we mean? When we need a cup of water, they, whilst getting a drink for themselves, fill a cup for us. When we need help for our assignments and projects, they can provide, to the best of their abilities, tuition and advice. Certainly, believers can and are willing to give such physical, earthly help.
But the help we are talking about is, first of all, spiritual help. When we are not doing something that is right, they tell us (or, perhaps, show in their faces—see Proverbs 25:23) we are in the wrong. When we are absent from catechism or youth group activities, believers, concerned for us, ask why we were absent (not to mention share their notes with us). When we struggle with doubts and fears, they tell us to trust in the Lord in all of life’s uncertainties.
Believers are our friends, because they help us spiritually. To help us in such way in all of life’s adversities, a friend is born.
Can you see, now, how believers are our friends?
And then, can you see, now, that unbelievers can never be our friends?
We cannot share with unbelievers the same spiritual likes and dislikes. Just think of some things your unbelieving classmates may like. Perhaps some of them enjoy using vulgarities, if not, the “OMGs.” Can we enjoy using our tongues that way? Perhaps they enjoy listening to Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, and others. Can we enjoy the wicked lyrics and immodest choreography of their music and dance? Perhaps they enjoy the thrills of the latest blockbusters—in the most recent times, of Captain America and the X-Men. Can we enjoy such movies that subtly—but often, boldly—promote sin?
And then think of some things your unbelieving classmates would not enjoy. They would not enjoy the preaching in our church—they do not enjoy hearing the voice of the Lord that has saved us. They would not enjoy studying the Scriptures—they do not enjoy reading the words of the God we love. Can we share that lack of enjoyment with them?
Can we share the same spiritual likes and dislikes unbelievers have?
Furthermore, unbelievers cannot help us when we need help. Your unbelieving classmate can get you a glass of water. He (or she) can give you tuition and advice when you need those things. But will he, in concern for us, ask why we have not gone for catechism and youth group activities? He does not go for catechism or CK. Can he point out our sin when we sin? He does not hate sin as we do. Can he point us to God when we doubt and fear? How can he, when he does not obey, believe in, and trust in the same Jehovah?
You and I know the answer too well. I knew it more keenly than ever in the army. During my time of basic military training (which has finished as this is published), I roomed with fifteen other soldiers. Most of them were unbelievers. I could not enjoy the songs they enjoy; neither could they enjoy the Psalms I sang. I could not find from them encouragement from God’s Word; neither could they understand how I found strength from reading the Bible. They could fill my bottle for the day; they could spur me on during the tiring hours of physical training. But that was all, and nothing more.
Do you agree with those words at the beginning now?
If we still are in doubt, then listen to the very Word of God. God says, What fellowship hath righteousness and unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness…. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate (2 Corinthians 6:14, 17). That is, unbelievers cannot be your friends. There is no fellowship, no communion, no friendship, between believer and unbeliever.
But there is fellowship, communion, and friendship, among believers. Two walk together, are friends with each other, because they agree. They believe in the same God. Fellow believers obey the same God and trust in the same God. The delights they have in God and His Word are the delights you have. The dislikes they have in the world and sin are the dislikes you have. Where your only Help lies, there they point you.
But, where are such friends? Where shall we find these friends?
And what about our unbelieving classmates? How do we treat them, if they are not our friends?
To be continued…
Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 38