|Volume 23 Number 4 April 2021
An interesting email caught my eye on March 15. “On this day in 44 B.C., Julius Caesar died surrounded by friends. Unfortunately for him, his friends had daggers.” Following this eye-catching statement, the advertisement promoted fiction and nonfiction works about Julius Caesar. After some reflection, I noted the Bible addresses friendships by providing examples, instructions and warnings.
First Samuel 18:1-4 describes the beginning of a close friendship between David and Jonathan. The two remained steadfast friends despite knowing David would one day become king instead of Saul’s son, Jonathan (1 Samuel 23:16-17). The friendship even survived many attempts King Saul made on David’s life (1 Samuel 19:2; 20:17-23). After Jonathan’s death, David kept his promises to show kindness to Jonathan’s family (1 Samuel 20:14-16, 41-42; 2 Samuel 9).
Jesus had many friends. John 11 indicates Jesus shared a friendship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus (see also Luke 10:38). When Jesus met with Elijah and Moses at the transfiguration, He took with Him Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took these same three a little farther into the Garden before He went even deeper into the Garden to pray (Matthew 26:36-46). On the cross, Jesus placed His mother into the care of John, “whom He loved” (John 19:26). Though Jesus loves everyone (John 3:16), these verses indicate He had a special friendship with some individuals while on earth.
The Book of Proverbs provides many insights into friendships. Friends love or have affection for each other (17:17). They are friendly (18:24) and tell the truth even when it hurts (27:6). Friends can make each other better (27:17).
Similar sentiments also appear in the New Testament. Christians are instructed to show affection for each other and to prefer the company of other Christians (Acts 2:42-46; Romans 12:10). God’s children should display the qualities of kindness and forgiveness to others (Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:12-13; 2 Peter 1:5-7). Additionally, Christians are to comfort and support each other (Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11) while they “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). For other traits needed in friendships, search the New Testament for “one another” passages. Without such characteristics there can be no true friendship.
God warned the Israelites against making covenants (friendships) with the idolatrous people of Canaan (Exodus 23:32; Deuteronomy 7:1-5). God forbade these relationships so His people would not be led into sinful practices (Exodus 23:33). However, the Israelites did not follow God’s commands and were led into idolatry (Judges 2:1-3, 11-13).
Other Scriptures warn against forming friendships with the ungodly. “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26). “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Psalm 1:1 encourages God’s people to avoid the advice of the ungodly, and Exodus 23:2 forbids one to “follow a crowd to do evil.” First John 2:15-16 states, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.” Those who make friends with the world make themselves enemies of God. “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Friends of the world wield daggers at the faithfulness of Christians.
With or Without Daggers?
The Bible describes Abraham as a “friend of God” (James 2:23; see also 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8). Exodus 33:11 declares that God spoke to Moses “as a man speaks to his friend.” Jesus stated that those who obey His commands are His friends (John 15:14), and John wrote that friends of God will overcome the world (1 John 5:1-5). True and lasting friendships have God and Christ at their center. Any other relationship is the equivalent of having “friends with daggers.” Choose your friends wisely.
Consider Your Ways!
Tami Coble Brown
Within the pages of the Minor Prophets in the Bible, the Book of Haggai could easily be overlooked. Yet, this miniature book had a mighty message for the nation of Israel, as well as powerful principles for us today.
In 538 B.C., the Jews had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem after spending 70 years in captivity. Under Ezra’s leadership, they began to rebuild the Temple, but opposition from their enemies caused the work to cease (Ezra 4:23-24). God sent Haggai to prophesy to the Jews in the second year of King Darius, which was 520 B.C.
Haggai’s message was direct and concise. “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways!’” (Haggai 1:4). He then told the Jews that they were eating, drinking and clothing themselves but never had enough. They were earning wages to put into a bag with holes. Then in verse 7, Haggai again urged, “Consider your ways!” The Jews had neglected the house of God for over 15 years and were more concerned with their own material wealth and wellbeing.
In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul referred to “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” What about you? Have you been guilty of neglecting the house of God? Is your first priority found in eating, drinking and clothing yourself? Jesus commanded in Matthew 6:31-33, “Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The kingdom of God is the church that Jesus built (Matthew 16:18-19). If material things have become more important to you than Christ and His church, it is time for you to consider your ways!
In Haggai 2:15-17, the prophet again told the people to “carefully consider.” He reminded them of times in the past when they had disobeyed God. “‘I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to me,’ says the Lord.” God used similar words when He previously warned the children of Israel who were wandering in the wilderness with Moses, “The Lord will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with scorching and with mildew; and they shall pursue you until you perish” (Deuteronomy 28:22).
During the year 2020 and into 2021, the pandemic caused widespread disease and financial distress all over the world. Did you stay faithful to God and continue to worship Him during those trying times? Maybe you have let discouragement and difficulties push you away from God. Consider your ways and allow God back into His proper place in your life. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
In Haggai 2:18-19, we find these words, “Consider now from this day forward… consider it. Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day, I will bless you.” In spite of their past disobedience and neglect, God had mercy on His people. Once they resumed their work on rebuilding the Temple, God promised to bless them with fruit to sustain them.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” The church of Christ is God’s field. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me, you can do nothing.” The church of Christ is God’s building, and individual members are the stones. Peter wrote to the Christians, “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
The last words in the Book of Haggai are addressed to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, “‘…for I have chosen you,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:23). Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” If you have believed in Jesus as the Son of God, repented of your sins, confessed Him before men and have been baptized for the remission of your sins, then you are among God’s chosen. Have you chosen to follow Him day by day and to be faithful to Him until death? If not, then consider your ways!