“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
By Paul H. Boge
Where would we be without friends?
Friends celebrate one another’s victories, share in defeats, and encourage each other in the average, every day events that make up life. They are there to cheer with us when Team Canada wins the big game, and to pick us up if the date doesn’t work out so well. As singles, friends play a particularly important role in helping us stay relational in an increasingly isolated world.
Proverbs 27:17 says: As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. This verse encourages us to seek out good friendships.
But for what purpose?
The ultimate aim God has in connecting us with others is for us to grow closer to Him. When we sharpen an object, we take away parts that do not belong to make it more useful for a particular task. God provides friends to challenge us mentally, emotionally and spiritually to let go of what is hindering us, and to spur us on to deeper faith in Him. He also uses us to do the same in others.
So what makes for a good friendship?
The Bible is full of examples of singles being in friendships characterized by many attributes including honesty, commitment and communication.
Paul was honest and genuine in his relationship with Priscilla and Aquila. Daniel was committed to his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego despite the circumstances. Elijah was a mentor to Elisha. And Jesus Christ is the perfect friend demonstrating unparalleled love for anyone who comes to Him.
Friends can speak into each other’s lives. A word fitly spoken can change our perspective. That idea that seems great inside our mind somehow becomes clearer under the light of a friend’s scrutiny. Friends see things we don’t. And friends make it possible for us to know that despite being single, we are not alone.
Yet sometimes people pull away from friendships. This happens for a variety of reasons—fear of letting others in, disappointment in previous friendships, not having enough time, worry over relating to others. Whatever the reason, the Bible reminds us of Jesus’ example of calling us friends.
If Christ is willing to share His life with us, we should be encouraged to share our life with others. There is something profound that happens when we show an interest in knowing others, and when we allow ourselves to be known by others.
We grow faster and deeper when we are in committed relationships.
But what if a recent move to a new location, or trouble fitting in at school or at work makes finding a friend a challenge?
We first need to remember to find our identity, acceptance, validation and ultimate friendship in our relationship with Christ alone. Seek first the kingdom of God. The death and resurrection of Christ is what gives us hope. We are complete in Him. The world’s approach is to find acceptance through achieving and acquiring. But seeking essential acceptance in places other than the love of Christ puts far too much demand on any relationship.
Second, ask and it will be given to you. In God’s timing and in His plan, He will provide. We can take the initiative in finding friends in the activities we enjoy, and we can nurture friendships by being good listeners, serving, responding, and inviting people over. (Especially to watch Olympic hockey!)
One of the challenges in the Western world is that we are conditioned to place our own needs first, and the needs of others second. God’s way is different. By studying what He says, and the order in which He says them, we can learn how God views friendship. Nothing God says is left to chance.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. The order is God first, then others, then ourselves. When we change our thinking from what we can get out of friendship to what we can contribute to a friendship we are on the right track. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for others.
There’s nothing quite like sharing life with friends. Friendship for singles is a gift. It is an opportunity to grow. To connect. To be selfless. To love. To be loved.
And to become more like Christ.
PAUL H. BOGE is the author of Father to the Fatherless: The Charles Mulli Story. He’s an engineer who works in project management. He’s single and lives in Winnipeg.
THE ARTICLE ABOVE WAS FEATURED IN THE MAY 2014 ISSUE OF SEVEN MAGAZINE.