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To establish transparency, I believe that being open is essential. Thus, I want to preface this by acknowledging that pastors are somewhat inept regarding friendship. We struggle both in being and making friends, and there are various reasons for that. Nevertheless, the Bible offers profound guidance and boundaries for nurturing healthy relationships, including friendships.


As a pastor, I find great fulfilment in studying the Bible and extracting principles we can apply to real-life situations. I may not be a friendship expert, but I can draw from Scripture and share principles for cultivating good friendships with you and myself.


Today, we look at several Qualities that lay the foundation for exceptional friendships. As we discuss these qualities, we aim to look for them in potential friends and develop and embody them ourselves. 


I love backpacking and these qualities are similar to the gear I might carry as I traverse the wilderness. As each backpacker carries their own gear, we are individually responsible for cultivating these qualities.


In contemporary society, we often rely too heavily on our feelings to determine right, wrong, good, or bad. While emotions hold significance, they can also be fickle, deceptive, and subject to change. Our feelings do not dictate truth. 






Furthermore, a misguided belief has emerged wherein individuals hold others responsible for their own emotions. This mentality works like this: if someone's actions make me feel bad, they should change their behaviour to make me feel good.


While people's actions can evoke different feelings, we ultimately retain control over how we react or choose not to react. The over-reliance on feelings to determine right from wrong and the belief that others are responsible for our emotional state has fostered a cultural quagmire of division and unhappiness.


Good Character and Bad Company 






The first quality is simply that of good character. Being an exceptional friend necessitates possessing good character. Parents often emphasise to their children the importance of choosing their friends wisely, which also holds true for adults. The company we keep profoundly impacts who we will be tomorrow. 


1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" 


This verse reminds us that associating with negative influences will inevitably tarnish our character. We may wonder why it doesn’t work the other way around, but as Paul says, “Don’t be deceived.” That’s not how it works.


Building and maintaining good character is no easy task. It requires working to live by the commands of Jesus and the moral precepts of Scripture. Jesus instructs us to take up our cross and follow Him—a lifelong endeavour that demands much study and practical application. Taking up our cross entails self-sacrifice, self-denial, self-discipline, and pursuing something greater than ourselves. It involves replacing our materialistic and worldly desires with biblical character. It requires putting our old selves to death, but our old self doesn’t want to die.


Bad company corrupts good character because it is much easier to go downhill than uphill. It’s much easier to float downstream than it is to swim against the current. Building good character is like climbing a mountain with a backpack—it's arduous. And if your companion does not share the same goal, you will either part ways or return down the mountain.


Good character doesn’t change bad company. You can’t forcibly drag or carry someone to the summit if they are unwilling to go. It's far easier for them to hinder your progress or pull you down the mountain than for you to pull them up. In fact, it’s almost practically impossible to carry someone else, their gear, and your gear to the summit. However, it is relatively easy for them to drag you down.


Paul's words in the Scriptures warn us not to be deceived—bad company destroys good character. The term "corrupt" used here implies complete devastation. However, this does not allow us to be self-righteous and condescending toward those considered to be bad company. That attitude makes us bad company.


Yet, as Christians, we face a conundrum. We are commanded to connect with people, to show them God's love and share the Gospel. Jesus exemplified this by eating with tax collectors and sinners. In the cultural context of that time, sharing a meal held significant meaning. Pharisees were appalled when Jesus associated with sinners and tax collectors for that reason.


When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus responded, "Love God,” and added, "Love your neighbour" as the inseparable counterpart. Pharisees and modern legalists suggest avoiding associating with bad company altogether, emphasising commands without love. On the other hand, some modern progressive Christian ideologies promote love in the context of Jesus eating with sinners as an excuse to disregard the commands and precepts of scripture. Both approaches fall short.


Jesus didn't spend time with tax collectors merely to say, "I love you guys," while they squandered their money on prostitutes. He showed love to them by sharing a meal with them, but Jesus also called them to repentance. He loved them but did not compromise the commands to do so, nor should we. 


Scripture tells us that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners not to endorse or participate in their behaviour but to call them to repentance. He called on them to change their minds, aligning their thoughts with God's will for them. When Jesus called His first followers, He used the metaphor of becoming fishers of men. It is clear that you cannot be both the fisherman and the fish at the same time. 


Loyalty and Strength 


Imagine climbing a mountain with someone who wants to help you reach the summit, even when the ascent is difficult. You also want to help them reach the summit. On a challenging trek, there will be moments when you question your decision and wonder why you embarked on the journey in the first place. It's normal to struggle and have doubts, but that's different from turning back or going downhill. Struggling is acceptable.


Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 speaks about the benefits of companionship. It says that two are better than one because they can share the rewards of their labour together. When one falls, the other can help them up—however, woe to the person who falls alone without anyone to assist them. Two people lying down together can keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? If someone is overpowered, two individuals together can resist. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.


Sometimes we feel weak, We may even feel like we won't reach the summit. Life can be incredibly challenging. During those moments, having a friend who possesses the qualities of loyalty and strength becomes crucial. They can support us and help us get through, and we can reciprocate when they face discouragement. A loyal friend can help us regain our footing if we slip and fall. Loyalty means being firm and constant, sticking with each other throughout the journey.


I have had this conversation many times with my wife about the importance of having someone in your life who will remain loyal and faithful no matter what. Knowing that someone will be loyal to you and that you can lean on them is essential for getting through the low points of life.


A good friend also possesses the quality of strength. Strength goes beyond physical abilities. It also involves endurance—a willingness to endure and be there long-term. When we endure and lean on each other, we become stronger, even when one of us is weak. As Ecclesiastes suggests, a threefold cord, which includes two good friends and the Holy Spirit, is not quickly broken. 




Being someone who is encouraging and uplifting plays a vital role in friendship. I Thessalonians 5:11 advises us to comfort and edify one another. I often bring something I don't usually eat when I go backpacking, usually a Snickers bar. Why do I bring it? Because it boosts morale. The difficulties of mud, mosquitoes, and leeches become less bothersome when enjoying a Snickers bar. It’s encouraging and lifts me up. A biblical word that aligns with this concept in friendship is “edification." Edification means building someone up, helping them grow, and improving them. There are various ways to accomplish this, but being encouraging and uplifting is one way to do that.


In my experience, the feeling of wanting to quit tends to trade back and forth between friends. When one friend expresses exhaustion and frustration, the other friend encourages them, saying, "Come on, we can do it." Being encouraging and uplifting helps form the foundation of exceptional friendships.


Truth and Accountability 






While everyone usually has their own gear when backpacking, certain items, such as a water filter, can be shared among the group. Sharing some pieces of gear can lighten the load for everyone but also requires trust and accountability. If one person fails to fulfil their responsibility and forgets something essential or doesn’t feel like carrying it, it can put the entire trip at risk. Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." 


Exceptional friendships are built on truth and accountability. We need friends who will be honest with us even when it's difficult, and in turn, we should be truthful with them. Speaking the truth in love and being trustworthy are integral aspects of friendship.


From a biblical perspective, truthfulness is always essential. We should always strive to tell the truth, regardless of who we speak to. Accountability, on the other hand, is a gift we share with select individuals. It is not something we offer to everyone. 


Early in my ministry, I made the mistake of being accountable to the wrong people, accepting all criticisms indiscriminately. It is essential to discern whose criticism holds value and to seek accountability with exceptional friends who have our best interests at heart. It’s good to have a friend willing to ask, “Did you bring the water filter?” and trust them enough to allow them to rummage through our pack to make sure. 


Love and Forgiveness


Ephesians 4:32 encourages us to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving towards one another, just as God in Christ forgave us. I carry a personal locator beacon on all of my adventures. Although it doesn't remove the dangers of the wilderness or absolve me of the responsibility for my actions, it makes rescue possible when I get into trouble. It makes things more forgiving when I make a bad decision and mess things up. A friendship shouldn't end when one person makes a mistake. Love and forgiveness allow a friendship to endure.






All the qualities we've discussed, including encouragement, loyalty, strength, truthfulness, and accountability, are built upon a footing of love and forgiveness. There will be times when we make mistakes, offend, or unintentionally hurt our friends. In such moments, love and forgiveness mean that the friendship continues. 


Of course, boundaries exist in human relationships, and love and forgiveness do not imply tolerating mistreatment or abuse. However, when both individuals in a friendship are committed to love and forgiveness, the relationship can weather mistakes and conflicts and even grow stronger because of the conflicts.


Exceptional friendships are built on encouragement, loyalty, strength, truthfulness, accountability, love and forgiveness. 






1 Choose your company wisely: Be mindful of the company you keep and surround yourself with people with good character. Evaluate the impact of your friendships on your own character and make adjustments if necessary.

2 Seek personal growth: Work on developing good character traits by studying and applying the teachings of Jesus and the moral principles of Scripture. Embrace self-sacrifice, self-discipline, and pursue something greater than yourself.

3 Be discerning but not condescending: While avoiding negative influences, approach others with love and empathy rather than a self-righteous attitude. Show God's love and share the Gospel while maintaining a commitment to the commands and precepts of Scripture.

4 Cultivate loyalty and strength: Be a reliable and steadfast friend who supports others through their challenges, and seek friends who reciprocate that loyalty and strength.

5 Be encouraging and uplifting: Actively seek opportunities to uplift and encourage your friends. Offer comfort and support in times of struggle and celebrate their accomplishments. Be a source of morale-boosting in their lives.

6 Embrace truth and accountability: Foster an environment of trust and accountability in your friendships. Be honest and truthful with your friends, even when it's complicated. Likewise, be open to receiving honest feedback and constructive criticism from trusted friends.

7 Practice love and forgiveness: Show kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness towards your friends, just as God in Christ forgave us. Friendships will have ups and downs, but love and forgiveness allow relationships to endure and grow stronger through conflicts.