Our lives can be influenced by the friends that we have. That is why we must be able to identify who are good friends and who are bad friends.

What is a friend? It is a person who wants to be near another because of feelings of affection or personal respect.

Good friends and bad friends

Some friends can have a good influence on us whereas others can influence our lives in the wrong way – they can affect our behaviour and change our beliefs.

When God looks at our friends he doesn’t look at their personality or appearance but rather at whether they are a good influence on us.

We are cautioned to steer clear of friends who may led us astray.

A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Proverbs Ch.12:26)
Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.       (1 Corinthians Ch.15:33-34)

A good friend has a positive impact on the other person.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs Ch.27:17)

Friends can influence and develop each other’s characters for the better – it is similar to a piece of iron sharpening the other piece of iron.

The Bible instructs us to be a friend to those who fear God.

I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts. (Psalm 119:63)
Friendship with God

Real friendship involves face to face honesty.

Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the "tent of meeting." Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses.…The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. (Exodus Ch.33:7-9,11)

God and Moses talked face to face in the Tent of Meeting, just as friends do (God probably did it through his angel). Why did Moses find such favour with God to have this exceptional privilege? It was certainly not because he was perfect, overly gifted or powerful. Rather, it was because God chose Moses, and Moses in turn relied wholeheartedly on God’s wisdom and direction. Friendship with God was a true privilege for Moses, out of reach for the other Israelites.

There was a friendship because of the trust between Moses and God.

Friendship with Jesus
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John Ch.15:15)

If we believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master, then he should call us servants; instead he calls us friends. How comforting and reassuring to be chosen as Christ’s friends. Because he is Lord and Master, we owe him our unqualified obedience, but most of all, Jesus asks us to obey him because we love him.

Friendship with people of the world around us (unbelievers)

The Bible warns the believer to stay away from evildoers. However, the believer should attempt to be friendly to everyone.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians Ch.6:10)

Speaking to unbelievers is a good way to tell them of what God has promised for this world.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter Ch.3:15-16)
Good friends can start at childhood
What makes a good friend

The following characteristics make a good and true friend:

  • Show self sacrificial love to the other
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians Ch. 2:2-4)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John Ch.15:12-13)
  • Give good and wise advice to your friend
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel. (Proverbs Ch.27:9)
  • Be honest with your friend – reprimand them when necessary.
So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. (Luke Ch.17:3)

One of the most difficult parts of a friendship is to rebuke a friend who may be straying from the principles of God or the teachings of Jesus (and his apostles). However, if we are concerned then we are being a true friend by doing this.

Our concerns must be communicated to our friend in a sensitive and caring way.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. (Proverbs Ch.27:6)
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. Yet my prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers; (Psalm 141:5)
  • Give encouragement to your friend
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians Ch.5:11)
  • Provide support during times your friend is experiencing adversity
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Ecclesiastes Ch.4:9-10)
  • Show forgiveness to your friend if they should offend you
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs Ch.17:9)
  • A good friend is loyal.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs Ch.18:24)
  • Show unconditional love to each other
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs Ch.17:17)

What kind of friend are you? There is a vast difference between knowing someone well and being a true friend. The greatest evidence of genuine friendship is loyalty (loving “at all times”). A true friend is there to help in times of distress or personal struggles. Too many people are fair-weather friends. They hang around when the friendship helps them and leave when they’re not getting anything out of the relationship. Think of your friends and think about your loyalty to them. Be the kind of true friend the Bible encourages.

When should we develop a close friendship

If you think back over your life you probably had a close friendship with someone when you shared common interests, goals and desires. As a believer the first thing you should look for is someone who has the same moral standards and religious beliefs as you do.

It is an extremely difficult situation if you are a committed believer but your work friend (non-believer) wants to go out on a Friday night to a nightclub where immoral things takes place. This friendship can’t possibly last! There will be continual struggle as to which direction the friendship goes in. The same goes for having a friendship where your non-believer friends continually use foul language. An extremely uncomfortable situation to be in – the friendship can’t last!

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." (2 Corinthians Ch.6:14-17)

Friendships should not be based on outward appearance or wealth but rather on God’s standards.

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel Ch.16:7)

Getting to know someone involves getting to know their values and then watching how these values are put into practice.