In the mid-80’s a hip hop group called Whodini had a hit song called Friends, where they asked this very question.

Friends. How many of us have them?

Friends. Ones we can depend on

Friends. How many of us have them?

Friends. Before we go any further, let’s be friends!

According to 2012 statistics, the average Facebook user has 245 friends. But, are all those we call “friends” today, really our friends? What makes them so?

Honestly, I’d say many of the people on my “friend” list are not those I’d have a particular closeness to, and some are “friends of a friend”. Facebook has helped us out recently. Now we can designate someone as a “close” friend or “acquaintance”, which determines how frequently you receive their news and updates. Even those we call friends, we never really have to hear from because we can hide them. We can even unfriend someone and they’d never know unless they checked their friend list. And with the average friend list of 250, who’s gonna really take the time to do that?

Whodini makes this observation about how we choose our friends:

We like to be with some, because they’re funny

Others come around when they need some money

Some you grew up with, around the way

And you’re still real close too this very day

Homeboys through the Summer, Winter, Spring and Fall

And then there’s some we wish we never knew at all

And this list goes on, again and again

But these are the people that we call friends

But, is this how our friendships should develop? Should we be so casual in our approach to friendships, or is there more the Lord has for us in our friendships?

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Colossians 4, and it struck me Paul had a lot of friends (and enemies). He knew his friends intimately and could give specific commendations about how the Lord was using them in gospel ministry. He sent specific greetings to and from those who had partnered with him, even to those whom he had “run-ins” with in the past.

After commending the Colossian church for their great faith in Christ, love for one another, and for their gospel zeal (Col. 1:3-6), he warned them to stand firm against deception and false teaching (2:6-8). He set Christ before them as all sufficient and supreme (Col. 1:15-19), and wanted them to have “all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ” (Col. 2:2).

I couldn’t help but wonder if the reason they would be susceptible to be being taken captive by deception is that the “friends” whom they trusted were leading them astray. Regardless, Paul encouraged them to set their minds and hearts on the things of Christ (Col. 3:1-11), and to live in ways that please the Lord. As he closes the letter, he sends greetings from his various friends and to those in the churches in and around Colossae who would be passing around his letter.

Friends: Ones We Can Depend On

I think a better approach to defining, establishing and maintaining friendships comes from the example of the apostle Paul, not our favorite social networks. Here are the kinds of friends Paul had, and the kind of friends I value and try to cultivate.

The Thick and Thin Friend – Aristarchus (v. 10).
This is the friend who is there through the good and bad. They will walk with you through the darkest nights, and the sunniest of days, both with joy and loyalty. Aristarchus was by Paul’s side during riots, shipwrecks and prison (Acts 19:29, 27:2; Col. 4:10).

The Friend With Issues – Mark (v. 10).
This is the friend whom we’ve had some issues with, but we’ve committed to laying aside our differences to help and encourage one another in the faith. Mark had deserted the mission to return to his home in Jerusalem (Acts 13:13, 15:36-38). We don’t know the particulars of the dispute, just that Mark left when Paul and others had expected him to stay and finish the work.
However, Paul later commended Mark’s helpfulness to him in the ministry and asks the church to welcome him if he visits them (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11).

The Friends Who are Kin and a Comfort – Justus (v. 11).
Justus, along with Mark and Aristarchus, were among the few Jewish Christians who were with Paul to comfort and encourage him. Paul experienced opposition from his own countrymen (2 Cor. 11:26); so to have these brothers by his side must have been a great comfort. There is something special about a friend who has some familial connection, or who at least comes from a similar background or culture and can identify with and comfort us in our struggles.

In Part 2, Kristie Anyabwile will continue to give us insight into the type of friendships we should seek and cultivate. Look for Part 2 tomorrow!