Think of your best friend. Why is that person your friend? Why do you enjoy their company? What are the character traits that you look for in a friend? Proverbs 27 has some things to say about choosing a friend:
Verses 1-2 I don’t think we like to hang around people who are always boasting about the things they are going to do in the future, or keep talking about how great they are. Nobody likes a braggart, full of pride. Humility is a good character trait in a friend. A good friend might even speak well of you once and a while.
Verses 3-4 Fools make lousy friends. These are the ones that always seem to be “provoking” people to get angry. They are angry themselves, and their wrath is destructive. Along with anger, they are jealous of others, comparing themselves while becoming envious. Maybe that is the root of their anger. Stay away from people like this!
Verses 4-6 True friends speak the truth in love. They are not afraid to rebuke or reprove you. That means they are honest with you, and not afraid to criticize or show their disapproval – this is an expression of genuine love. A person with “hidden love” is too timid or insecure, to speak truth. As verse 6 says, “Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” A strong friendship is able to withstand honesty and accountability, even when it hurts. Verse 6 reminds me of Judas kissing Jesus when Jesus was arrested. Judas was an enemy of Jesus. Do you know that Judas left the last supper meal when he was exposed by Jesus as His betrayer? So when Jesus calls His disciples “friends” in John 15:14-15, Judas has already left the group (John 13:30). True friends don’t betray you and stab you in the back.
Verses 9-12 True friends are available to one another especially in times of need and great hardship (v.10). True friends know you well, and can discern when something is off, or you are struggling. These friends offer “heartfelt counsel” which “is as sweet as perfume and incense” (v.9 NLT). Real friends are “wise” and “prudent”; they can see danger ahead, and are able to warn you (v.12)
Verse 14 speaks about a friend who knows what to share and when to share it. Whether it is a word of encouragement, advice, or a blessing, timing is important. A friend, who really knows you, knows when to open their mouth. (see Prov. 15:23; Prov. 25:11-12; Eph. 4:29)
Verse 17 This very familiar verse speaks of true friendship in that, as two friends live life together, they “sharpen” each other’s character. Like a knife and a sharpening stone, they go together, offering constructive criticism, which, as time goes on, helps them become better people. Think about a long-time friendship where you both have helped each other through so much. How has your friendship grown and made each of you into the people you are today? What rough edges of your character have been hewn off because of the honesty and correction of your friend? Praise God!
True friendships are a great blessing when developed. They take time, which sadly, many are not willing to put in. The benefits of investing into another individual far outweigh the costs. We need to ask ourselves, “are we able to be a “true friend” to others”? Are we committed for the long haul? What character traits need to be developed so that I can be a true friend? Honesty and integrity; Love and patience; Do I possess these? “A friend loves at all times” (Prov. 17:17) and “a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). Jesus is able to call us friends because He has invested so much into us, even His very life. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us, and to love us unconditionally. He is patient and kind, and corrects and sharpens us so we become better people. He is the perfect friend – what a friend we have in Jesus!