We live in a digital world full of "friends" and "followers" we've never met. But Scripture is filled with images of relationships that move beyond surface-level sentiment. We should be creating community that's fiercely loyal and demonstrably kind.
The Bible has a lot to say about friendship and the behaviors that foster genuine rapport and companionship. Here are 15 verses that can help us all become better friends.
1. Withholding kindness from a friend (Job 6:14)
Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend
forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
Most of the Book of Job is dialogue. Job's friends try to help him understand the tragedies that have befallen him. At one point, Job's friend Eliphaz suggests that Job is suffering because of his own foolishness.
Here Job tells Eliphaz that he's the one acting foolish. Because if you're withholding things like kindness, comfort, and compassion from your friends, you don't fear God.
2. How good and pleasant to dwell in unity (Psalm 133)
How good and pleasant it is
when God's people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron's beard,
down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
Psalm 133 touches on multiple ideas simultaneously. On one level, it is an ode to Israel living in harmony. From another angle, it's a look at the beauty of unity in general. When we learn to get along harmoniously, everyone is blessed.
Sometimes this is particularly hard for people who are close to one another. No one knows you the way your family and friends do and, as the old saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. If we want to dwell in unity, we need to put the work in.
3. Gossip separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28)
A perverse person stirs up conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends.
It's kind of surprising how often gossip comes up in Scripture. But when you think about how dangerous (and pervasive) it is, it makes sense. Gossip destroys reputations—and relationships.
There's something wrong with a person who enjoys stirring up conflict. Sharing secret knowledge feels powerful. But in the end, it erodes trust. We need to be careful not to associate with people who take pleasure in talking about others' mistakes and foibles. Avoid them. If they gossip with you, they gossip about you.
4. Love covers offense (Proverbs 17:9)
Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,
but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
No one is perfect. Every close relationship goes through difficulties and trials. Inevitably, the people closest to you will let you down. And you'll let them down. But how we handle those offenses will decide the direction of our friendships.
The writer of Proverbs tells us that love covers an offense. Think about that for a second. When you cover something, you no longer can see it. Love can obscure the mistakes and missteps we’re tempted to let consume our relationships.
But the writer warns us that by going to others to talk about the offenses we've suffered, we run a real risk of doing real damage to our intimacy.
5. A friend loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17)
A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
If you've ever had a fair-weather friend, you know how painful it can be. It's one thing to have friends who are fun and frivolous. But it's genuinely heartbreaking when you're going through a trial and those people are nowhere to be found.
A true friend is always there. They make time for you. Not only are they there to laugh with, but they’re also there when you need someone to cry with. When you find friends like that, hold on to them. They're worth their weight in gold. And as you strive to share Christ with others, make an effort to be that friend, too.
6. Unreliable friends lead you to ruin (Proverbs 18:24)
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Notice that this verse doesn't say that being unreliable will lead you to ruin. That's self-evident. The point here is that even if you're doing everything right, surrounding yourself with irresponsible people will eventually cost you. You simply can't do it all alone, so you must surround yourself with trustworthy and dependable people.
The writer of Proverbs contrasts unreliable friends with those who are like siblings. No matter what, they're always there and ready to help.
7. Wounds from a friend can be trusted (Proverbs 27:6)
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
This is a hard lesson to learn. We don't like taking criticism from anyone. And we often expect friends to support and affirm us no matter what. But when we really think about it, we know that's not helpful. Our friends know us best, and we desperately need them to point out our blind spots. The writer of Proverbs calls these truths "wounds," and reminds us to trust them.
On the other hand, our enemies will often manipulate us with kindness. The writer of Proverbs would warn us all not to be blinded by flattery and to welcome being challenged by the people closest to us.
8. Friendships perfume (Proverbs 27:9)
Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice.
When you went to an ancient dinner party in the ancient Near East, the host would provide scented oils and incense. These extravagances demonstrated the host's generosity and your value.
The advice of friends provides the same kind of experience. When someone loves us enough to offer sincere guidance, it demonstrates their benevolence and our value. One of the most significant benefits of close friends is having someone who can offer us valuable counsel.
9. Two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12)
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
We're used to hearing this passage in relation to marriage. And while that's definitely one way to look at it, it's really a passage about all relationships. The author warns of isolation. In verse 8, the author talks about a man he witnessed who had no brother or son to help him, and every single day was a toil.
Our friends and family are gifts that God gives us to make life more comfortable and fill it with joy. Just remember, you're there to make their lives more enjoyable, too.
10. Love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12–15)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 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.
In a beautiful passage, Jesus tells his disciples that they're not servants; they're friends. And the proof is that He's preparing to lay down His life for them—the greatest act of friendship. He then encourages us to demonstrate that kind of love for one another.
It's pretty easy to convince ourselves that we'd lay down our lives for our friends, but that's because most of us will never have to. The question is whether we're willing to lay down our lives in little ways every day.
11. The dangers of bad company (1 Corinthians 15:33)
Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."
Any parent will tell you that their children act differently depending on the kids they're around. Whether they're aware of it or not, their friends' attitudes and opinions rub off on them—for good or bad. But parents often don't recognize that it happens with them, too.
If we want to put ourselves on a positive trajectory, being strategic about the people we surround ourselves with is critical. If the people close to us are optimistic, self-sacrificial, hardworking, and kind, we will be, too. But if not, it will also have an impact.
12. In humility, value others above yourself (Philippians 2:1–4)
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Paul appeals to Jesus's example to demonstrate how we should treat one another. He goes on to tell us how Jesus set aside His divinity and became a servant on our behalf. And He encourages us to have that same mindset with one another.
We should make the daily choice to live as a servant to those close to us—to set aside our rights and expectations. This is the challenge of modeling ourselves on the example we see in Jesus.
13. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:12–14)
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
The closer we are to others, the more opportunities there are for them to discourage us, disappoint us, and demoralize us. It's just a natural by-product of iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). The people we love will let us down—and we'll let them down, too. That's why traits like humility, gentleness, and patience are so critical. Without them, our relationships fall apart.
Again, Paul uses Jesus's example as a template for our behavior toward one another. We are to be forgiving. How forgiving? As forgiving as Jesus has been toward us. This means being willing to forgive regularly and consistently.
14. Do not slander one another (James 4:11)
Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is for friend groups to gossip about whomever is absent? The word translated as "slander" here means to accuse or speak out against someone. James is reminding us not to talk negatively about others. It should be our impulse to speak positively about others and not to talk them down.
James alludes to Leviticus 19:16a, "Do not go about spreading slander among your people." This is only two verses before Leviticus tells us to "love your neighbor as yourself." When we choose to slander others, we're not only judging them, but we're saying that we're above God’s law.
15. Love each other deeply (1 Peter 4:7–9)
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
If you thought the end was near, what would you prioritize? Peter tells us that the end of all things is close and therefore, we should put loving one another deeply at the top of our to-do list. Why? Because love helps us endure the challenges that arise from living in a sin-soaked world.
On top of that, we need to become hospitality experts because hospitality gives expression to that love. It's about making room in our lives for others. And Peter doesn't just ask to be hospitable; he tells us to accommodate others without grumbling. That's what love looks like.
Becoming a good friend
For followers of Christ, friendship is critical. Practicing forgiveness and hospitality empowers us to experience the love of Jesus in our relationships. This is true for others who know the Lord and those who don’t.
If you have friends who don't know Jesus, the relationships you foster with them will have a tremendous impact on their openness to your faith. If you're looking for some help on sharing the gospel with your friends, check out the post 5 Tips for Sharing the Gospel with Friends.