The foundation for all our friendships is, of course, our friendship with Christ. And how do we know we are friends with Jesus? “Greater love hath no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15).
Jesus calls us His friends, and He laid His life down for us. The fact of this astounding relationship we have with God should transform our own friendships as we imitate Him. We are to “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…” (Romans 12:10). This is at the heart of Christian friendship: in honor giving preference to one another. This is dying to self, laying your life and your interests down for the sake of your friend. This caliber of friendship is what we all long to have and extend.
Proverbs 27:9-10 says, “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: So doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.” God’s friendship with us is characterized by “hearty counsel.” He allows us to unburden our cares to Him and He gladly bears them for us. In the same way, we ought to bless our friends with such hearty counsel. This kind of counsel is like perfume and it rejoices the heart. We can share our concerns and receive healthy, sweet, and godly counsel. This is a friendship that goes deeper than the surface.
Now I don’t think this means our friendships should be characterized by constant counseling. And certainly we should be good stewards of our friends’ confidences. “He who repeats a matter separates friends” (Prov. 17:9). And we should not dominate the friendship by always needing counseling. That would be putting our own interests ahead, not behind our friends’ interests. At the same time, the sweetness of the friendship described here means that there is a strong (hearty) presence of biblical thinking and practice. This is like Faithful and Christian on the road together, encouraging one another as they press on toward the Celestial City. Hearty counsel. This sounds like what we all need in a friend. So of course that means it’s the kind of friend we should be.