Friendship, God's Style

I remember once when my older son had one of his friends over to spend the night.  For the occasion, I promised my boys I would bring home a movie to watch.  My choice for the evening was "Brian's Song."  As I watched this movie with them for what seemed like my 20th time to view the film, again my eyes welled-up with tears as the story moved to its dramatic conclusion.

Some of you remember, I'm sure, this story of Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo, both running backs for the Chicago Bears, who began rooming together in 1967.  It was a first for the National Football League because it was the first time that a black and white roomed together in the pro ranks.

Despite their differences in color, the men blended and created a poignant relationship that became something very deep; It was something so close words could not describe it.  That friendship was put to the test two years later.  In 1969 cancer cut Brian Piccolo out of the team - a severing that Gayle Sayers experienced with Brian.  When one hurt, both were in pain.

Before Brian died, the Professional Football Writers' dinner was held, an event Brian had planned to attend with his wife, best friend Gayle, and his spouse.  Instead, Brian lay confined to his bed.  Alone.  Each year at the dinner the George S. Halas Award is given to the most courageous player in professional football.  In 1969 it was awarded to Gayle Sayers.  As he stood to receive the award, Gayle, tears streaming from his eyes, took the trophy and said, "You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo.  Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas Award.  I love Brian Piccolo and I'd like you to love him.  Tonight when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him too."

After watching the movie, I asked myself why that relationship was so attractive.  Well, for one, it exemplifies that which few people have and most want . . . and need.  But also, I think it is a modern day version of David and Jonathan of theOld Testament.  The way Brian and Gayle shared and loved each other is so like that of David and Jonathan and the fellowship of those we read about in the New Testament.

Biblical friendships are so rare.  Why is this?  Perhaps the answer can be found in the characteristic of a biblical friend.  Let me suggest a couple.

First, a biblical friendship is characterized by UNCOMPROMISING LOYALTY.  "A talebearer reveals secrets, but he that is of a faithful spirit conceals the matter."  (Proverbs 11:13)  In a world of "every man for himself," loyalty is a rare quality indeed.  Being friends with another person means that we choose to see the good in him (or her) and believe the best about him.  It means turning a deaf ear to talk that tears him down. Likewise, it means being quick to speak a good word about him to others.  Being loyal means being sensitive to things that should not be passed on to other people.  A good friend is one who can listen attentively to another's problems or concerns and not feel a burning desire to tell it to someone else.  Broken confidences have destroyed many budding friendships among Christians.  In fact, it is significant to note that the above verse was written in the context of a book that repeatedly points out the danger of false friendships.

Secondly, a biblical friendship has UNWAVERING COMMITMENT.  "Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off."  (Proverbs 27:10)  Being committed to a biblical friendship means that we desire God's best for our friend.  His growth and well-being are as important to us as our own, and at times, our needs and wants must be ranked second to his. (Philippians 2:3,4) We must also love our friend enough to confront him or offer him a word of exhortation if necessary.  Likewise, we should give him the freedom to point out a blind spot in us that is hurting our testimony or relationships.  Caring enough to hurt a little now in order to help greatly later is a mark of true biblical friendship.

Are you looking for this kind of friend?  Then start praying that God will make you that kind of a friend first.  "A man who hath friends must show himself friendly."  (Proverbs 18:24)