The Urban Dictionary defines “friend” in these many sentences, but it takes the total of them all to really mean “friend” in the world we know: “A friend is someone you love and who loves you, someone you respect and who respects you, someone whom you trust and who trusts you. A friend is honest and makes you want to be honest, too. A friend is someone who would sacrifice their life and happiness for you. A friend is someone who not only doesn't care if you're ugly or boring, but doesn't even think about it; someone who forgives you no matter what you do, and someone who tries to help you even when they don't know how. A friend is someone you look forward to seeing and who looks forward to seeing you: someone you like so much, it doesn't matter if you share interests or traits. A friend is someone who doesn’t have to talk to communicate with you.” Those sentences say a lot, but they don’t even completely define what a true friend is, do they? If you have a true friend then you know, and you are among the richest of them all if have even one like that. There are examples throughout literature like Damon and Pythias, of sacrifices that one real friend will make for another as Steinbeck’s George does for his friend Lenny in “Of Mice and Men.” Elbert Hubbard says that “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” How many friends like that do you have?
In today’s society we use the term “friend” far too lightly. How many Facebook friends do you have? Let me put it another way, if you needed a kidney would you first go to Facebook to find a donor? We call mere acquaintances friends, we call someone a friend if they went to the same school we did or lived in the same town, but those are not real friends. We call some friends because we want others to think better of us and hope the association helps. Those are not true friends. True friends would rather die than betray us, but they will tell us when we are being stupid yet will not ever make us feel stupid. I am blessed with many friends who fit all the right definitions yet almost all don’t even live on the same continent as I do (I am touched by God as one of my best friends is my wife). If you have a good friend where you live that you can see frequently and converse with often, you are truly blessed. A really good friend can go years without seeing you, and, upon your coming in contact again, it is as if not a day has passed since you were last together. Lots of people can “like” something you post on Facebook, but if you see the name or just a few words from a true friend, it can make your day, your week, your year. Just the other day, after posting a picture of my most recent scar, a friend I have not seen in almost forty years wrote “Hang in there” and my heart leapt up and my day was made.
Almost everything Christ taught and showed us in His own life was about being a friend to others. Christ didn’t say it, but He might have because “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” The more we imitate Christ in our life, the more true friends we will have and the more who see our relationships will want to have the same kind. Many of us have friends we have never met, never seen, and whose only contact with us is what they read and see about us on the internet, yet they consider themselves our friends. When Karen had her heart troubles in 2010 that meant we needed family and friends to raise almost $20,000 to pay for her medical bills—the money was there. When I needed almost $10,000 to pay for my defibrillator replacement and hospital stay in Nairobi in 2016—the money was there. On both occasions, people neither of us knew contributed and even worked to raise money among their friends. Who you are and how you live your life will make you real friends if Christ is in the middle of it. Christ wants to be your best friend, and there is no better friend to have as He fits all of the definitions above and adds a few. If Christ is your best friend, you will have many others as His love and devotion will define you in a way that will make others want to be your friends. Two men (in 1555) were being taken to be burned at the stake because of their Christianity and one, Nicholas Ridley, was very scared. The other, Hugh Latimer, told his friend to take heart, that, “We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace, as I trust never shall be put out." Most of us will never be asked to make such a sacrifice, yet almost all of us will be asked to make smaller sacrifices on almost a daily basis. We can only truly live as Christ wanted us to live if we have true friends by our sides or even on other continents. God bless every one of you who calls me “friend” and may I be as true to you as Christ has been to me. God’s grace is sometimes best defined by those who are our friends, our true friends. May you all have at least one and hopefully many with which you may bring the light of Christ into the darkness that surrounds us. When that light illuminates us, we will find that we are not standing alone and are surrounded not by darkness but by our friends.