I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother, Paul to his friend Philemon (Philemon 7)
I’ve just blogged that our hearts follow our dollars. Or to quote Jesus, “where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.” But here there’s another key element, “where our friends are, there will our heart be also.” That’s my paraphrase of Jesus… I mean, he liked his friends a lot… but I have to admit, it’s not exactly what the Bible says.
What does Scripture lead us to understand as the basis of good friendship? The Good Book, I've discovered, finds friendship an important topic.
A few key elements of “Yes friends” do find their way into the biblical book of Proverbs.
First of all, we need friends to give us support and advice:
“Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14
If it’s true for a nation, I'm pretty confident it works for individuals. In fact, a somewhat recent survey (from 2006) found that 1 in 4 Americans don't have anyone to confide in. That to me is the definition of a lonely life. And that's why we need “yes friends.”
These “yes friends” give us encouragement in their counsel: They affirm what we may not see in ourselves. They celebrate our victories. And they stand by and encourage even when we’re not perfect. They grant us freedom to fail.
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24; I went NIV on this one).
On the other hand, “yes friends” doesn’t mean sycophants—those who will just tell us everything’s ok. That’s called a flatterer and they don’t fare too well in Proverbs. Who wants to be told “all is well” right before the tornedo arrives? Who wants compliments when a personality course correction is what’s needed?
“Whoever rebukes a person will afterward find more favor than one who flatters with the tongue.” (Proverbs 28:23)
Though not a Christian—for one thing, he lived before the New Testament or Jesus existed—the philosopher Aristotle had some pretty good things to say about friendship. He philosophized that friendship isn’t just about people we like or have things to offer us, but that friends seek the Good together. Paul wrote rather rhapsodically, about four hundred years later, and yet in agreement with Aristotle,
Love “does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).
Still one more reason that flatterers make us feel giddy for a while, but also prove to be pathetic companions.
Finally and most importantly, our friendship—or intimate community—begins to define us,
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
We become who we hang out with.
When we get in the company of those who support your deep, true yeses, we come to our truest selves, and we realize our dreams, the important dreams—the one God puts in your heart, the ones where passion meets mission. That’s why I want yes friends.