Such is the brief topic assigned to me for this essay. However, though the topic is brief, it is pregnant with meaning. For ‘’making friends” is a beautiful activity but also a very difficult art.
To see this it is necessary that we have a correct conception of what constitutes a true friend. Who is our true friend? What characterizes him? First of all he resembles us. In a sense he is our equal. There is affinity between him and us. For, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). And this affinity between us and our friend is not merely psychological, but above all spiritual. Spiritually we live out of the same principle, we fight the same enemy and we have the same goal.
Moreover, our true friend also loves us. For of Jonathan a genuine friend of David, we read, “Jonathan loved David as his own soul.” Friendship without love is inconceivable. And this love of our friend does not consist merely in this, that he feels attached to us and has a certain affection for us, but it is a spiritual bond which reveals itself in that he seeks our highest good, which is heaven. Never is he that seeks our downfall our friend, regardless whether he does such intentionally or unintentionally. Everyone that seeks our ruin and helps us along on the road to destruction is always our enemy. Our friend is only he that has as his goal our eternal good.
Finally, our friend reveals to us edifying thoughts out of a pure heart. For again we read that God, Who is the Friend of His people, reveals to them His secrets (Gen. 19:17, 18; Ps. 25:14). Thus it is also with our human friend. To us he makes known the thoughts of his heart which he would reveal to none other. And these thoughts which he reveals to us are of an edifying nature. They are not vain, filthy and evil, for then they would be detrimental to our soul and he would not be our friend. But they are thoughts which proceed from a heart that is pure and, therefore, by them we are greatly benefited.
Since the nature of a true friend is such, it is evident that to have such friends is an invaluable privilege and a power for good in our lives. For such friends we have a crying need. However, according to our subject, if we are to have such friends, they must first be “made.” This suggests that we live in an unfriendly world, a world in which we have no friends by virtue of our natural birth. And such is very truly the case, by nature you and I stand without a friend in the world. And not only are others not friends in regard to us, but neither are we friends in regard to others. By nature we are enemies of God and enemies of one another.
I know, it does not always seem that way, but such, nevertheless, is reality. For it is true there are many ungodly men that are capable of giving us a friendly smile and a warm reception, and that seek our cooperation in the different spheres of life. Apparently they have our advancement at heart. And frequently they also appear eager to become intimate with us and to reveal to us the secrets and thoughts of their hearts. Seemingly they are our friends. But, even so, we must not be misled, the appearance of things is often very deceiving. Our highest good the natural men will never seek. To do so never enters his mind, for of it he is an enemy. He seeks only himself, everywhere and always. Hence, though outwardly he pretends to be seeking our good, inwardly he is seeking self. And of this he can never rid himself. Moreover, even though he is willing to confide in us and make known to us the plans and secrets of his heart, his doing so can only be an evil influence in our life, for his heart is evil, filled with enmity. Therefore that which proceeds from his heart must needs create an unhealthy atmosphere for our souls. The conclusion can, therefore, not be escaped, by nature we are friendless. Friends, to be sure, must be made.
How can this be accomplished? Only in one way. This does not mean, however, that the attempt is never made to establish a friendship in any other way. Fact is, also the ungodly has his own peculiar conception of a friend and the manner in which this friend must be made. He also seeks a friend, though it is true, he does not seek a true friend. The reason is evident. Man was originally created a Covenant creature, in the image of God, in order that he might live in fellowship with God and his neighbor. To this life of fellowship his entire being was adapted. Because of this, also natural man seeks companionship. It is true, of course, the Fall has greatly changed his nature, but not in such a way that man became an independent creature desiring to live alone. Rather it left him in a formal sense a friend-seeking creature, but it made him blind for the value and need of a true friend, so that instead of seeking friendship in the sphere of light with God and the righteous he seeks it in the sphere of darkness with Satan and men of unrighteousness. But the company of others he must seek. That lies in his very nature. Moreover, the natural man also realizes that to exist and maintain himself he is in need of others. It is his desire to enjoy life, to increase his goods and to make himself a name. If this desire is to be realized, however, he must not live independents, for he is in need of the help of others. Hence, realizing this and feeling to home only in the company of the ungodly, he seeks to establish a friendship with men of darkness.
But the world strives to accomplish this in a foolish and evil way, for in their attempt to make friends they refuse to reckon with God. As in all things, so also in their striving for friendship, the world refuses to confess that salvation is from God alone. It is their desire to make friends without God and without Christ. Therefore they ignore the fact that, so long as man has enmity in his heart, it is impossible to make friends and that this heart can be changed only by the grace of God. The result is that with war in their hearts they set out to make friends in their own strength. But they soon discover that, if they are to be successful to any extent, the enmity in man’s heart must be restrained and concealed. Hence, in the attempt to curb this enmity, they use various artificial means, and in the effort to hide it, they display a false smile, they pretend to bless, and they boast that they seek their neighbor’s good.
Because of this deceiving outward appearance, natural man oft succeeds in temporarily establishing so-called friendships .societies and various organizations. Yet, even so, his friend-making must be appraised as being a total failure, for these friendships often are not lasting. They are bonds uniting self-seeking men, therefore as soon as this selfishness comes to the fore, these friendships suffer shipwreck. And the result is more enmity and divorce, murder and war. Moreover, these friendships of the world, even while they last, are but a sham. True friendship is characterized by love, but enmity characterizes the friendship of the world, for each seeks his own advancement and unto that end the cooperation of his neighbor. Hence, the fiery heart of friendship is lacking in the friendships of the world. Lastly, these friendships have an evil influence and so become a means unto death. In these various friendships natural man is given the opportunity to reveal the evil and corruption of his wicked heart. This he does and so contaminates the life of his neighbor. Thus the friendships of the world become a means to advance man on the road to eternal doom. Hence, the necessity that Israel dwell alone.
It is evident, therefore, that the world’s way of making friends is deceiving. What may then be the true way? How may we be successful? If we are ever to succeed at all, it is first of all necessary, that another friend first make a friend of us. By nature, we ourselves are enemies and, so long as enmity reigns in our hearts, we are incapable of even desiring to make others our friends, this enmity must first be dethroned and replaced by love. This we ourselves are not able to do, another friend must do it for us, and the only Friend able to do it is God. He first, as our Friend, must make us His friend, before we can make others our friends. But for that same reason, if we are to make others our friends, God must first make them friends also by dethroning the enmity in their hearts, for also they by nature are enemies. Except God do such, all effort on our part to make them our friends will be in vain. God does this by His Spirit and Word.
This work of God has as its fruit that in principle we love one another, we seek one another’s eternal good and it is our delight, to exchange with one another, edifying thoughts out of pure hearts. In principle it becomes our desires to have and to make true friends. This does not mean, however, that thus perfection has been attained, and that, henceforth, we shall always be perfect friends. Rather the contrary is the case. Fact is, only in principle has enmity been dethroned and replaced by love. And with this small principle of love in our hearts we live in a world which offers us our old friendship at the expense of the new. Hence, if by the grace of God we are not on our guard, so that we live out of the new principle of love and walk in the light, we will not experience the joy of the fellowship of saints. In the measure that we are unfaithful enmity and disorder shall be found among us. Therefore we must fight against the old principle of enmity, in ourselves, in our friend, in the world; and we must walk in the light out of the principle of love. And our weapons? They must not be our own, but God’s, namely, His Word and Spirit.
And the outcome? Will this way of making friends prove successful? It will not, so far as making friends with the world is concerned. For if we seek to make friends in this way only, the ungodly will reveal themselves as being our enemies. They will hate and despise us and possibly even persecute us. Is our method then not deceptive? No, this proves that L is right. For we live in a world in which God has willed and placed the antithesis. Hence, when the children of light walk in the light, the children of darkness always reveal themselves as being darkness. Therefore, since this way of making friends will also bear this fruit, we have the assurance that it is God’s way, and God’s way is always right. But the positive fruit will be that we will be united in a bond of true fellowship with the people of God. Disorder will then decrease among us and we will enjoy a sweet foretaste of the perfect fellowship of saints. And, what is even more, we will enjoy the favor of our God, for where love abides the Lord commends His blessing.