A true friend is the one who tells you that you have a piece of green spinach between your front teeth. A true friend is the one who will be brave enough to tell you that you are acting out of character, or out of line. A true friend is the one who shows up at your house when all your other so-called “friends” have already put as much distance between you and them as possible. A true friend is someone you trust to help you do what is so difficult … live a separated, Christ-like life. It is not easy to find a true friend. It is not easy to be a good friend.
I have a very dear friend in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. His name is Sergei. His wife Nelya and their son Roma are like extended family to us. I remember the first time I called Sergei my friend. He informed me that he did not use the word “friend” easily, and that he was not sure we were friends. That statement caused me to really evaluate if I was willing to pay the price that friendship demands. I then explained to Sergei that I had decided to be his friend regardless of his decision to be my friend. Praise the Lord, he decided and we have been friends for about seven years!
Today I read a verse that I read every month. It always causes me to pause and consider what kind of friend I am to the people I call “friends.” “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). I have written in my Bible, under this verse … “It does not say “polishes” – sharpening is tough, but necessary.” When I think about the illustration this verse gives me it always makes my mind go to a knife being sharpened on a sharpening stone. The person sharpening the knife makes repeated motions with that knife against the sharpening stone in order to remove any barbs that might have come to the blade of that knife. A true friend will not be there only in the good times, but will be involved in a repeated way in order to help each other become the people we need to be. By the way, both the stone and the metal of the knife are worn with each stroke. However, each stroke (though costing each of them something) is one stroke closer to perfection.
Friendships in this life unfortunately are few and far between. Make the most of the friendships you have in this life. Don’t assume that you will always have good friends. It takes consistent work, and consistent sharpening. Be a genuine friend today and you just might find your own Sergei somewhere!
“Loyalty cannot be demanded, but must be earned.” – Unknown