Have you ever had a thought just pop into your head that seemingly crops up out of nowhere? Well that is what happened to me. My oldest daughter, Emma Grace, observed me saying hello to a man while at her sister’s gymnastics lesson. When Emma saw me greet him she asked, “Is that your friend, daddy?” No, I told her I just met him here last week. “Then he’s your friend,” Emma Grace replied. Now I’m starting to get a little bit frustrated with my daughter’s persistence. That’s when the thought popped into my head … friend or associate – what’s the difference? This is what I shared with Emma … a friend is someone you have known for some time. You desire to spend time together. A friend is someone you have learned to trust because that person has proven to be trustworthy. The person is not someone who is always telling you what you want to hear. A friend is honest even when telling you the truth might hurt. Friends can be even more loving and caring towards each other than your own family. I went on to share that friends aren’t fair weather people. Meaning, friends won’t treat you well only if things are going their way. Nor, do friends take from you without desiring to give something back. The heart of a friend is to be unselfish. Friends welcome new friends into their relationship and share their company. Some friends will be closer to you then others. I told Emma that time, patience, endurance, faithfulness and trust are the things that build true friendships. A CHILD’S PERSPECTIVE By now Ella, my youngest daughter, had finished her gymnastics class. On the car drive home I continued my conversation on friends with Emma Grace. Ella immediately joined in saying, “Daddy, I make friends all the time. I just ask the person if they want to be my friend and they say yes! We are now friends. See daddy, it’s easy.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had my little Ella’s perspective on friendship? The world would be a better place if it were that simple. If we were all friends who got along together. Well, believe it or not that’s just how God intended the world to be. Of course when sin entered the world it tainted how God intended relationships to be. Nevertheless, friendship is a gift from God and we need friends. JESUS THE ULTIMATE FRIEND When it comes to friendship, Jesus is the ultimate friend. His life demonstrated what a friend should be. His love is unconditional. He is compassionate. He is not judgmental. During His time on Earth He had a heart to serve rather than be served. These selfless traits should be what we look for in a friend and what we strive to be as a friend. It is our sinful nature that prevents the simplicity of forming friendships the way my daughter Ella described. I see several things that interfere with forming close friendships. One is the unwillingness to commit to the selfless and servant-like heart friendship requires. Two is the fear of becoming vulnerable to another person. For some of us this is so frightening because we have allowed our past experiences of violated trust and broken promises to hurt us so badly that we’re no longer willing to forgive. Because of this unforgiving heart we shut people out thinking that we are protecting ourselves against more hurt. But in reality we hurt all the more because we are bearing the hurt alone. As I was working on this post, my wife and I were talking about this topic of friendship one night at dinner. We asked our daughters why they want friends. My darling of a daughter, at six years old, had this to say. “Daddy, the reason you make friends is because if you fall down and get hurt your friend will be there to help you up.” Simply put, we all need each other’s help at different times in our lives. We need help from God and help from the people that He places in our path. Some of those people could go on to become faithful, trustworthy friends if we both work at doing what it takes to foster such a relationship. Not only is Jesus our best example of a true friend but His life shows us the importance God places on friendships in our lives. Jesus could have chosen to accomplish all the works of God without anyone’s help. But in His wisdom, He chose twelve men to share His life and His mission on Earth. Jesus, in His humanity, showed the desire for the loving support of friends. THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE MATTHEW 26:36-45 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James and John) along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Even when you desire or need to be alone, what a comfort it is to have close friends nearby. Perhaps that was Jesus’s thought when He took Peter, James and John with Him and confided that His very soul was overwhelmed even to the point of death. Jesus then made what I consider a simple request: “Stay here and keep watch with me.” The Gospel of Luke gives a more vivid account of how Jesus prayed and the physical toll that it had upon His body. Luke 22:44-46 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he arose from prayer, and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” He asked them. “Get up and pray so you won’t fall into temptation.” Jesus went and prayed twice more returning each time to find Peter, James and John sleeping. One might think that Jesus would have had enough; that both his love and patience with them had worn thin. But not so with Jesus for He loves with an everlasting love. Oh! What a friend we have in Jesus! Jesus knew and understood how weak the flesh can be. He had compassion towards His disciples, His friends. Are we that forgiving, patient, loving, selfless towards the friends that we have in our lives? I pray that God helps us to be thankful for the friends we have and helps us treat them as Christ would.