What Does The Bible Say About Friendship? A Christian Study

by Derek Hill · Print Print · Email Email

What is a real friendship?  Is it a casual handshake or kind gesture?  Is it a phone call to see if you are okay?  Is it a visit to the hospital for those that are hurting or a night out for dinner?  Friendship does incorporate all of these things, but what really makes a friendship at the heart of it?  The Bible shows about some very good friendships.  Let us dive into Scripture and look at a few of them.

David and Jonathan

This is one of my all-time favorite friendships recorded in the Bible.  1 Samuel 18:1-4 says, “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.  And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.”  This is a friendship that God brought about.  These kinds of feelings don’t just happen.  Jonathan was the eldest son to Saul and should have been the rightful heir to the throne. (1 Samuel 20:30-31)  When Saul’s jealousy grew for David and he wanted him dead, Jonathan warned David to flee to a nearby field in 1 Samuel chapter 20:1-24.  Jonathon lost his chance to be king when he warned David to flee. (1 Samuel 20:30-31)  As the story goes, David and Jonathan loved each other like brothers and unfortunately were separated forever on earth. (1 Samuel 20:41-42)  They had a final meeting in these passages and it was a heartfelt goodbye of many tears:

“David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times.  And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most.”  (vs 41)

I can’t even imagine having to say goodbye to a dear friend for the rest of my days on earth, while they are still living.

Ruth and Naomi

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

This is a beautiful story.  As a famine devastated the land Naomi lived in, her husband and two sons died and she was left with her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth.  Naomi was heart-broken and told them both to return to the houses they came from so that they could find new families to start.  Like-wise Orpah and Ruth were distraught.  “Then they lifted up their voices and wept again.  And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.” (Ruth 1:14)  Orpah then leaves, but Ruth cannot bear the thought of leaving Naomi forever.  “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 if anything but death parts me from you.” (Ruth 1:16-17)  Ruth loved Naomi so much that she wanted to live with her forever and be buried next to her.  Eventually Ruth marries Boaz and gives birth to a son and gives her child to Naomi to help raise.  Naomi becomes a foster parent to Obed.  Naomi’s love for Ruth is evident as Ruth 4:15 says, “Your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons.”  This is a very serious statement because sons were valued more than daughters in the Old Testament.  Ruth and Naomi loved each other dearly and we can learn a lot from their story.

Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus

Mary, Martha and Lazarus were all siblings and they were all dear friends with Jesus.  In John 12:3 Mary takes very expensive perfume and anoints Jesus’ feet with it to show her love for Him.  Luke 10:38-42 shows the love of Martha.  She worked tirelessly to serve everyone in the house.  Her heart was in the right place, even though she didn’t spend time with Jesus while He was there.  Her love was put into the wrong actions, but one thing is clear and that is she did love Jesus.  Jesus’ love for Lazarus is evident in John 11:3, “So the sisters (Mary and Martha) sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, he (Lazarus) whom you love is ill.”  There are not a lot of scriptures that showcase the friendship of these four but you can see their love for each other the most in John 11:32-36, “Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in His Spirit and greatly troubled.  And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’  They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’  Jesus wept.  So the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!”  There is no doubt about the friendship that Jesus had with Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  This last passage is so comforting because when Jesus sees His loved ones weeping, He weeps with them.  What a joy to know that Jesus weeps every time we weep.  Don’t you love your Savior!  He truly is an awesome Savior!


I hope you can see from these three examples how genuine love is expressed in friendship.  In David and Jonathan’s case, true friendship is expressed by Jonathan in saving David’s life.  David’s love is expressed through much sorrow and tears about their separation.  In Ruth and Naomi’s case, Ruth’s love is clearly expressed in that she wants to stay by Naomi’s side forever.  Naomi’s love is expressed in that she loved Ruth more than seven sons.  In the case of Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Mary and Martha both showed love through service and sacrifice.  Jesus showed His love for all four when He wept at the tomb of Lazarus.

In closing, I leave you with the greatest verse on love in the Bible (aside from Jesus’ death for us):

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

You can see a genuine love for your friends if you are willing to love them enough to die for them.  I praise Jesus every day because He loved me that much.  I encourage you to praise Him every day also, for He loved the whole world enough to die for us all, so that we all could be called sons and daughters of God.  Praise His Holy Name!  May you strive to stay on the narrow path as you live a life worthy of the calling.  God bless you!

Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”; YouTube “Alabaster Box” sung by CiCi Winans

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