We had dinner with friends tonight. While we have known this couple for years, it is only recently that we have made an effort to develop a real friendship.
I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as accidental friendships. No, real friends are people you work at being friends with. Left to themselves, these relationships never develop. Now I should say here that what I am talking about is not the casual relationships many of us call friendships, mostly related to things like work, school, or church. These regular interactions do produce a comfortable familiarity with some light intimacy, but are just friendly associations, not real friendships.
There is a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” This talks about how true friends stick by you when things are not going right. I have in my minds eye a character from the Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee (Sam), who sticks by Frodo, even when Frodo drives him off. He was a true friend.
But Tolkien had advice even for true friends. He said, He should not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall. This echoes Jesus statement about counting the cost of our decisions and understanding what we are getting ourselves into. As a result, I believe it is fair to say that one should not enter into friendships, since they take real effort and can travel through dark places, unless one has both counted and is willing to pay the cost.
Now one can honestly argue that you cannot know all of the costs a friendship might require, but you can know if you are willing to eventually answer Jesus definition of a true friend:
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. You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:12-14
Yes, Samwise Gamgee proved a true friend of Frodo; while Peter failed the test of friendship the first time around. He denied three times knowing Jesus when put to the test. Fortunately for Peter he was given many second chances, none of which he failed. We can all hope to be a Samwise, or have the grace after failure to be like a renewed Peter, but either way, friendship rises or falls on the altar of paying the cost. Either we are willing or we are not.
So, are you a true friend to someone? If you are married, I hope your wife or husband is a true friend. And, as you go through life, I hope you develop at least one other true friend, someone who fits Proverbs 18:24
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Grace and peace and a true friendship be yours.