Drawing inspiration from the Book of Proverbs, Vaughan Roberts paints a picture of biblical friendship in his tiny book, True Friendship. Roberts said he designed the book to be read in roughly an hour (but encourages readers to meditate on it for much longer). I’ll stick with the brevity theme and write a review you can read in three minutes, with a quick breakdown of each chapter.
True friendship is crucial
We’re designed for friendship with God and each other. As God’s image-bearers, our capacity for relationships is rooted in the community of the Trinity. So friendship is essential to Christian living, not only because it makes us more like Jesus, but because true friends help us to live wisely. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Married or single, male or female, pastor or layman, we all need friends to walk beside us as we pursue God.
True friendship is close
Lots of us have hundreds of online friends, but still lack “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Roberts encourages us to pursue a range of friendships, but to keep especially close those friends who share our highest goal of glorifying God. Jesus made time for many people, but shared special moments with his disciples. We can build friendships in the same way, keeping in mind the risks and rewards that come with having close friends on this side of eternity.
True friendship is constant
King Solomon said, “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). Roberts takes this wisdom to heart, urging us to be intentional about maintaining and strengthening our friendships. This could be as easy as weekly get-togethers with loved ones, but it also requires walking alongside them in their sorrow, or reconciling after a misunderstanding.
True friendship is candid
Our truest friends are those who speak the truth in love, showing us where we’ve failed, yet steering us toward Christ. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Likewise, we ought to be vulnerable with our friends, sharing our greatest weaknesses, temptations, and doubts. Only then can we encourage one another with the gospel, and grow together in God’s amazing grace.
True friendship is careful
Candidness, however, is no excuse for a careless tongue. “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil” (Proverbs 15:28). Roberts warns against gossip. He also reminds us that every person is unique — some need a stern rebuke, while others need a gentle word (and a true friend will know the difference). He also warns against jealousy in friendship, which is often rooted in unhealthy codependency and, ultimately, self-love.
True friendship is Christ-centered
Or “Christ-centred,” as Roberts says. (Those Brits…) The final chapter reminds us that no relationship with fallen humans can meet our deepest needs. Our friends are not messiahs; they can’t save us from our sins, they can’t reconcile us to God. But good friends point us to the one who can: Jesus. He demonstrated the greatest love, and proved to be the greatest friend, when he laid down his life for us (John 15:13).
For more on Vaughan Roberts, check out his story on Living Out.