What Makes a Good Friend?
Friends are life’s wonderful gifts. You may already have many friends back home, but I hope you get to make many more friends while you are at UCSD! If we have no friends to turn to when we are in need, how bleak our life is!
But we are not naïve enough to think that all friends are alike. There are good friends and not-so-good friends. Some end up being just fair-weather friends–all smiles as long as you had something to offer but, the moment your fortune changes, they are nowhere to be found.
Good friends are what fair-weather friends are not. They are with you both in good times and bad times. In bad times, they don’t abandon you. Even in good times, they don’t just kiss up to you; they speak into your life and tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. They are willing to risk hurting your feelings, if for a moment, so they can protect you from bigger pain. But when you foolishly dismiss them and, as a result, you fall flat on your face, they don’t say, “I told you so!” and leave you like everyone else. Instead, they run to you without a moment’s hesitation and help you get up again. Do you have a friend like that? Having such a friend would be one of life’s greatest blessings. What do you have to do to obtain such a friend—someone you would feel so honored to be friends with, who is loyal and devoted to you? Is it just by the luck of draw?
But how about you? Are you willing to be such a friend to someone else? You say, “If I find someone worthy of my love and devotion!” Perhaps someone talented or attractive or kind-hearted or famous? But when you say that, aren’t you being a fair-weather friend, whose devotion is contingent on how admirable and attractive the person is? Would you be willing to be a devoted friend to a “loser”?
It is one thing to do an act of random kindness to a “loser”; it is another to be his friend. Apostle Paul says, “...one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die...” (Romans 5:7). Making that kind of sacrifice even for a friend would be extremely difficult. How many of us would do that even for our best friend? And who of us has a friend who would do that for us? This is humbling.
But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say, “...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Is this not the kind of Friend we long for—Someone who knows everything about us, even the most horrible things we have done (“while we were still sinners”), yet does not turn His face away in disappointment and disgust; Someone who has all the right to be angry with us and punish us because all our sins were ultimately against Him, yet lays down his life for us instead to deliver us from the penalty of our sins! This Someone is the eternal Son of God, who is most worthy of our love and devotion. If our vision were not so blurred and our hearts not so twisted, we would consider Him most magnificent and beautiful and desirable above all things.
The amazing thing is that you can have Him as your Friend. No one is good enough to gain such a Friend on his own. But the Son of God offers Himself to you. It is not because He needs anything from you. He has no illusions about you; He knows everything about you. Yet He came to lay down His life for sinners. This should be liberating. You don’t need to pretend to be something you are not to win His approval. But Jesus is the kind of Friend, who not only loves you the way you are but also helps you become what you long to be in your noblest moments as God’s image-bearer. All you need to do is to acknowledge the truth about yourself and accept Him as your Savior-Friend. You can start a beautiful and amazing friendship with the eternal Son of God, which will last for all eternity!