What is a friend? Webster defines "friend" as a person one knows well and of whom one is fond; one who is on the same side in a struggle; one who is helpful and available. According to his definition, I have had many friends throughout life. Before I was a Christian, I always had at least one friend with whom I "hung out." We were inseparable. Following Christ changed several things about my relationships to friends. Many of those with whom I had spent so much time, no longer had anything in common with me. We didn't cease being friends, in that we still communicate on occasion, but we do not desire to spend more than a few minutes with one another. We have nothing in common. They do not understand why I am so focused upon Jesus, and they apparently feel that if they are with me for longer, I will begin "performing an exorcism" on them.
Becoming a Christian increased the number of our friends so much that I can not even count them all. There are hundreds of people who would gladly help my family in a time of need, and we would do all we could to help them in the time of their need. We believe the Bible is the Word of God. We assemble together with the express purpose of worshiping Christ and having fellowship with one another. We enjoy being together.
The Bible uses the word "friends" fifty times and unfortunately, not all of them are positive. Haman's wife and friends encouraged him to build the gallows upon which he would be hung (Est. 5-7). Everyone knows of Job's three "friends" who rebuked Job (Job. 2-37). The Psalmist bemoaned his abandonment by his friends (Ps. 38:11). Friends are often pictured as hypocrites (Prov. 14:20; 16:28; 17:9; 19:4, 7; Lam. 1:2; Zech. 13:6; Lk. 16:9; 21:16). It may be helpful to think of these kinds of friends as an army of the enemies of Christ and His people (Jam. 4:4).
The Bible also uses the word to describe genuine friendship. David and Jonathan were friends (1 Sam. 18:1). While his three "friends" failed to pass the test of friendship, Job was a genuine friend of theirs (Job 42:10). Proverbs hints of the future Messiah as being a friend of Israel (Pro. 18:24). Jesus called His disciples friends, even though He knew in His time of crisis, they would all desert Him (Lk. 12:4; Jn. 15:15; Matt. 26:56). Going by these last two examples, friendship does not have to be mutual. One can be a friend of another, and yet not be considered their friend; in that sense, friendship is a lot like Agape love and grace.
I received a call today from an old friend, and we talked for probably an hour or more. It was good to catch up on what the Lord is doing in their lives. I have friends like him in Florida, California, Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia, and who knows where else. We don't write, visit, or call very often, but the moment we do come in contact with each other, it is as though we have never been apart. I find myself smiling the whole time we talk, and I hate to have the conversation end. Christ has given us a love for each other that cannot be severed by time or distance. We are brethren as children of the same Father. I thank God for old friends.