I have recently read several excellent blog posts on friendship. I think a lot about the complexity, responsibility, and consequences of friendship among women. The Bible says very little about friendships between women. The only direct reference I could find was Paul's encouragement to Euodias and Syntyche to make peace with each other. There are other relationships between women that are written about in the Bible, but none that are strictly friendships. It's puzzling to me that the Bible is silent on such an important subject, but I trust God had His reasons for this. Even without direct examples for women, there is enough instruction in the Bible for us to know we must be careful about who we befriend.
Here is what I know: friendships between women can be honoring to God or dishonoring to Him. Your friend will draw you closer to the Lord or lead you down the wide path of destruction.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV)
Most of us learned the importance of choosing good friends at a young age. There were certain children we were steered away from because of their corrupting or negative influence on our behavior and character. One kind of person to avoid is a gossip.
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. Proverbs 18:8 (NIV)
A woman who gossips as a lifestyle is not a good choice for a friend. She has no business telling you things in which you are not a part of the problem or a part of the solution. As good as it sometimes feels, we don't need to hear about the problems of other people, or what is going on in their private lives. This sort of information is often shared when women spend time talking on the phone during the day or text messaging instead of taking care of their homes and tasks.
I think this is what Paul was referring to when he wrote 1 Timothy 5:13. He writes of young widows becoming idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. Experience has shown me this kind of behavior is not exclusive to widows. There is just too much talking going on that is not edifying in any way.
One way women gossip is through prayer requests. Why do some women think it is permissible to talk about the trials and heartaches of others under the banner of "prayer requests?" I understand asking for prayer for a friend, but it is better if you leave names and details out of it and just ask for prayer for a specific issue. Be a friend, don't gossip and stop those who begin to tell someone else's story without permission.
Surround yourself with women who want to speak of Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 instructs us to encourage one another and build one another up. Hebrews 10:24 tells us to stir up one another to love and good works. When you are invested in the spiritual growth of other women and engaged in the business of living out the gospel in your daily life you will be beautifully fulfilling this mandate.
[that] we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:12 (ESV)
A good friend will point you towards Jesus, she will say and do things that will remind you to honor Him. When I meet with a friend, I want to talk about what the Lord is doing in her heart and life. I want to know what she is reading for enjoyment, spiritual growth, and what she is learning in her Bible reading. I want to hear about how her present life circumstances are reshaping her into the image and likeness of Christ. My favorite conversations are about spiritual things, rather than ungodly things. I am not being a friend if the majority of a conversation has nothing to do with things that are eternally significant.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:19 (ESV)
Women are caretakers by design. It is in our nature to want to nurture and care for one another. Remember, your friends can support you and pray for you, but they should not be the first place you turn in times of trouble. We can certainly help meet tangible needs and we can pray for each other, but ultimately God is the one who comforts us. Too many women bypass God and go to their friends when discouragement sets in or when tragedy strikes.
On that same note, it is too easy to make other people our gods, especially if she is someone we admire or want to be emulate. I hear women talking all the time about this or that popular Bible study teacher who they just love and want to be like. Her word is taken without consideration of the exhortation to be Berean and examine the message to see if the teaching is actually biblical (Acts 17:11). Christ is our example and He is who we are to imitate.
This topic is so important as you can see from our brief look at it today. Check back on Wednesday when I continue writing on women and friendships.