Throughout the Bible there are many examples of godly friendships. These particular instances of friendship portray relationships of men and women who are separated by age, distance, social standings, and ethnicities. Their friendships varied from what we may picture as a typical friendship because of these things and because in many cases there seems to be one person of greater maturity or authority. However, these differences show the presence of godly love in their lives.
Ruth and Naomi’s story takes place in the time of the judges before there were any kings in Israel. During a severe famine, Naomi and her family moved to Moab. There, Naomi’s two sons married Moabite women—but ten years later, both of her sons and her husband died. With no family left in Moab, Naomi returns to Judah, and Ruth follows her. While on the way, Naomi urges Ruth to return to Moab and her people, however Ruth responds in unwavering loyalty: “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.’” (Ruth 1:16–17)
The rest of Ruth and Naomi’s story continues to show Ruth’s obedience and loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth’s trust and obedience to Naomi’s wisdom leads to Boaz taking Ruth as his wife. Ruth 4:13 and 17 read: “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son… And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, ‘A son has been born to Naomi.’ They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.”
Though this story demonstrates a trusting friendship between Ruth and Naomi, it is ultimately a story of God’s faithfulness; He supplied a kinsman redeemer to Ruth, a grandson to Naomi, and through Obed, He gave Israel a king after his own heart.
Read the whole story of Ruth and Naomi in the book of Ruth.
The language used to describe David and Jonathan’s relationship is unlike any other friendship in the Bible. Jonathan was son of the anointed king of Israel, Saul. However, because of Saul’s sin against the Lord, the Spirit of God was no longer with him. God had his servant, Samuel, anoint David in his place, but even though he was anointed, Saul still held the position of king. Though Saul was pitted against David, Jonathan “loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1). Jonathan and David made a covenant that they would show steadfast love to each others descendants as long as they lived. When it came to putting David before his own father, Jonathan chose to be loyal to David.
After Jonathan and Saul’s death, David became king, and intentionally sought to honor the covenant that he had made with Jonathan by looking for any descendants of Saul’s house. When he heard that Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth was still alive, he quickly restored to him all of the land that was once Saul’s and had him eat at his table like one of his sons.
Jonathan and David’s love, loyalty, honor, and care marks of a deep friendship. Their full story can be read in 1 Samuel 18–20 and 2 Samuel 9.
Mary and Elizabeth were cousins in Judah and Galilee. They had a significant age gap, and there is little information about their relationship, however what we do know is significant. Elizabeth had been promised a son in her old age by the angel Gabriel who appeared to her husband, and six months into her pregnancy, Mary receives a significant visitation from Gabriel as well.
Each of these friendships exemplify in some way the sacrificial love which Jesus called the greatest love.
Mary has just been told that she will be the mother of the Messiah that her people have been anxiously waiting for. Upon hearing this news, Mary immediately leaves her home for several months and went to Elizabeth, who lived more than 90 miles away. Though the Bible doesn’t tell us many details of Mary’s visit, the first conversation is recorded for us. Together they exclaim praises and worship God for these miraculous works.
Upon receiving life changing news, Mary immediately sought comfort and wisdom in her older cousin and friend. Their story can be read in Luke 1:1–56.
Though Jesus had a relationship with each of his disciples, John’s friendship and characteristic writing that followed his time with Jesus is distinctly different than that of the other apostles. Throughout his Gospel, John refers to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved”. At the last supper Jesus had with his disciples, the night that He was betrayed, John writes that he sat directly by Jesus, saying that he “Reclined at [Jesus’] side”. These small details that John puts throughout his gospel indicate a unique closeness between them.
His Gospel is filled with things the synoptic Gospels omit or recall differently such as the way he emphasizes particular miracles that indicates his first-hand experience of them. Even throughout John’s writings later in his life, he seems to have a deep understanding and emphasis on Christology, highlighting Jesus’ humanity and deity in unison. His life was drastically altered by his friendship with Jesus as he received love, instruction, and knowledge of God and salvation through Jesus.
Paul was an apostle of Jesus who faithfully planted churches as a missionary throughout Asia and into Europe. During his ministry, Paul met Timothy, who was a believer. Timothy’s reputation and submissiveness to Paul’s instruction led Paul to take Timothy with him on his missionary journey.
Timothy faithfully served the Lord as a pastor and missionary alongside Paul, going to places as Paul instructed such as to Corinth (1 Cor 4:17) and Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2) to remind the wavering Corinthians of the way in Christ. Paul often describes their relationship as a father and son. Even though there was likely a significant age gap and a difference of authority and roles in the church, Paul and Timothy exemplify godly love and character in their relationship with one another.
Each of these friendships exemplify in some way the sacrificial love which Jesus called the greatest love (John 15:13). Though not every friendship will mirror these, the characteristics of loyalty, trust, obedience, worshipful attitudes, and sacrificial love they display is an indication of true love and friendship.
by Rebecca McLaughlin
Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. –John 15:13 Our culture idolizes romance and the love of parents...
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