Friendliness is a virtue that should be manifest by the grace of God in our lives as Christians. Christians should be known above all others as people who are warm and friendly. In this also we must reflect the blessed glories of our God. We know our God to be a covenant God, a truth that is very dear to us. As Reformed Christians we know that the covenant of God is the wonderful personal relationship of friendship that God has with His people. The Lord the covenant God takes His people into His own life and fellowship and communion. This is more than an abstract doctrine for the Christian. It is a wonderful, blessed reality which we experience through the Word and Spirit of God as we live in daily communion with our God. As Christians we must seek to reflect in a creaturely way the beautiful reality of God’s friendship to others. It is disgraceful and dishonoring to God when Christians show themselves to be unfriendly, rude, and even obnoxious to their neighbors.

Christian friendship is rooted in Christ Jesus. That means that Christian friends have fellowship and communion together in the love and truth of Christ Jesus. In that love they have a fervent personal concern one for another. They know each other’s problems and trials and difficulties and really care about them. Christian friends help each other in their needs and struggles, they seek to promote each other’s welfare as Christians. Christian friends have a common love for the truth. They admonish and exhort each other in that truth. They walk together according to that truth. Christian friends seek to walk together in sanctification and holiness. They are radically different from the so-called friends of the world who are partners in wickedness. Christian friends delight in each other’s company and fellowship. In this they bring great blessing to each other.

There is according to the Bible an evil friendship. The friendship of the world is enmity with God. The Christian may not find his friends among the world. There is something seriously wrong with the Christian who is constantly found in the company of the ungodly. The Christian may not have fellowship with the people of the world in their wickedness. It will be natural for the Christian if he lives godly that the world will hate him. There are no exceptions to that. The Christian does not go to the world’s parties and dances and movies. He feels entirely out of place there. The things that are done there are abhorrent to him. The Christian does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly nor stand in the way of sinners nor sit in the seat of the scornful. For his delight is in the law of the Lord and in that law he meditates day and night.

True Christian friendship is not unprincipled and compromising. There are of course those who would be the friends of all men. They will go to great lengths to be the friends of all, even to the point of compromising the truth of Christ Jesus and partaking of the evil practices of ungodly men. This is Christ-denying friendship. The Bible teaches us that we are not to have company with those who obey not the truth and those who walk disorderly.

Friends can have a great influence upon each other. Or perhaps we should say friends will inevitably have a great influence upon each other. This is perhaps more true for young people but it is also true for mature adults, perhaps more than we realize. The old adage that a man is known by the company he keeps has a lot of truth to it. Worldly and evil friends surely will have an evil influence upon our lives. When we are found in their company there will be great temptation and pressure to compromise, at first perhaps in small ways but finally even in major things. Good Christian friends on the other hand have a sanctifying influence upon each other. They are a great support and encouragement to each other as far as the truth and sanctification is concerned. Solomon states: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Thank the Lord for the good influence of friends upon our life. Thank the Lord for their encouragement and support in our life. True friends can exhort and admonish one another in love without fear of offending. In this manner they can bring correction and change in our life. How needful it is for all of us constantly to be corrected and changed.

Friendship can serve a wonderful purpose in the church of Jesus Christ. The church should be a warm communion of friendship. The world should stand amazed at our church when they behold how we love one another. In the world men are impersonal, careless, and unconcerned about each other. How sad when the members of the church are that way to each other. Though a city may be populated with millions, many of those millions are often miserably lonely and destitute. Christian friendship must first of all be evident among the members of the church. Otherwise, of course, showing such friendship to outsiders will be evident of hypocrisy. It is very sad when there are those in the church of Jesus Christ who suffer from loneliness and isolation. The whole church bears the responsibility and shame for this. We must always be watchful in the church for those who might need to be befriended and encouraged. The homes of the members of the church should be centers of Christian hospitality for other members of our church. Some of the members of the church enjoy rich and wonderful blessings of the Lord in their homes. Others may not have such great blessings. We must always be ready to share of the rich abundance which the Lord has given to us with others.

The church must also be the place where strangers can find the blessedness of Christian friendship. It must not be an exclusive society where things such as tradition and national origin are a hindrance to outsiders coming in. We need to work very hard at making our church a place where outsiders feel welcome, a place where they receive genuine Christian love. No, this alone will never make the church of Jesus Christ. No amount of friendliness and concern will make up for a void in the preaching of the truth of Christ Jesus. Love and the truth are always inseparably related. True Christian fellowship and friendship is not possible where there is the darkness of sin and apostasy. Nevertheless,, the wonderful truth that we possess as a church must be shared in meekness and love with the stranger that may come into our midst. The Lord is pleased to add unto His church when such a spirit reigns among her members. How much can be done to make visitors to our church feel welcome in our midst!

Christian friendship can also be the basis for personal evangelism. Again, never will the church be gathered by friendship alone. It is gathered only through the power of the preaching of the gospel. True Christian friendship is the fruit of the gospel of Christ Jesus in the lives of His saints. God is pleased to use the virtues and good works of His saints to bring others under the hearing of the gospel. Many churches expend great efforts to distribute tracts and handbills and to advertise programs of the church. Often this is done in commendable zeal and love for the Lord. But sometimes this is just too impersonal to be very effective. Dr. J.I. Packer in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God makes some very worthwhile comments.

And they remind us, second, that personal evangelism needs normally to be founded on friendship. You are not usually justified in choosing the subject of conversation with another till you have already begun to give yourself to him in friendship and established a relationship with him in which he feels that you respect him, and are interested in him, and are treating him as a human being, and not just as some kind of ‘case.’ With some people you may establish such a relationship in five minutes, whereas with others it may take months. But the principle remains the same. The right to talk intimately to another person about the Lord Jesus Christ has to be earned, and you earn it by convincing him that you are his friend, and really care about him. And therefore the indiscriminate buttonholing, the intrusive barging in to the privacy of other people’s souls, the thick-skinned insistence on expounding the things of God to reluctant strangers who are longing to get away—these modes of behavior, in which strong and loquacious personalities have sometimes indulged in the name of personal evangelism, should be written off as a travesty of personal evangelism. Impersonal evangelism would be a better name for them! In fact rudeness of this sort dishonors God; moreover, it creates resentment, and prejudices people against Christ whose professed followers act so objectionably. The truth is that real personal evangelism is very costly, just because it demands of us a really personal relationship with the other man. We have to give ourselves in honest friendship to people, if ever our relationship with them is to reach the point at which we are justified in choosing to talk to them about Christ, and can speak to them about their own spiritual needs without being either discourteous or offensive. If you wish to do personal evangelism, then—and I hope you do; you ought to—pray for the gift of friendship. A genuine friendliness is in any case a prime mark of the man who is learning to love his neighbor as himself.

We must learn to show ourselves as genuine Christian friends to our neighbors, to our working colleagues and to our relatives outside of our church. On this basis we can invite and exhort them to come to the house of the Lord with us to hear of the wonderful truth which the Lord has given to our church.

The writer of the book of Hebrews begins the thirteenth chapter with the beautiful and significant exhortation: “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:1, 2).

Christian friendship is central to what according to the Lord Jesus shall be found in the truly righteous children of God in the day of judgment. The righteous children of God are described as those concerning whom Jesus says, “I was an hungered and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink, I was a stranger and ye took me in, naked and ye clothed me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me . . . . Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:35, 36, 40). These are called the blessed of the Father who shall inherit the kingdom of heaven prepared for them.