When our children were young we had no other families with small children in our new little church. Often at family devotions one of our children would pray that God would send them each a Christian friend, but they had to wait a long time for God’s answer to that prayer.
In struggling with the desire to have a friend her own age, our daughter wrestled with the temptation to overlook things she knew were wrong for the sake of having someone to play with. Her prayers for a Christian friend seemed to be answered when the family of one of her classmates began attending our church and the two girls started spending time together. The new family had standards which were different from ours, evidenced in almost every area of life. This difference provided a springboard for our children to ask many questions as to why we do what we do, and allowed us to point out the biblical defence for our choices.
One day while these nine year old girls were playing together, they decided, without permission, to ride their bicycles to the nearby drug store. When their trek lead them to the cosmetics counter, our daughter’s friend held up a brightly coloured lipstick and suggested they should each get one. Our daughter pointed out that they had no money, but her friend showed her how easy it was to slip that slender tube into her pocket and take it without paying for it. It was so pretty! They would be like the bigger girls! And, after all, it only cost a little bit of money so it wasn’t really like stealing. James 1:15 tells us “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin,” So the deed was done and the girls left the store.
The lipstick stayed hidden for a short time, but soon I noticed telltale red marks in the vicinity of my daughter’s lips. (Did she think I wouldn’t notice?) Had she used mommy’s lipstick without asking? No? What do you mean it is your lipstick? You’re not allowed to have lipstick. You got it at the store when you were at your friend’s? How could you buy it when you had no money? Soon the compromised conscience of a young child who has been taught right but has done wrong caused her to confess her sin in tears. We told her that she had to go with us to the store and talk to the manager, confess her theft, and pay for the lipstick.
We then called the friend’s mother and told her what had happened. Imagine our consternation and absolute shock when this mother responded that she knew about the theft but wouldn’t dream of embarrassing her daughter by making her go to the store manager and confess the theft. No amount of urging or biblical admonition would budge this woman’s position. The welfare of her child’s soul was bartered at the altar of keeping up appearances. And so ended a less than beautiful friendship for these two girls.
The Bible has much to say about friendships. Godly friends can bring us immeasurable benefit. David was grateful for the unselfish friendship of Jonathan, who put his friend’s welfare before his own. (I Samuel 18:3) The Proverbs remind us that a true friend loves at all times and speaks the truth to us, even when it may temporarily hurt. (Proverbs 17:17 & 27:6) Obedient Christians are counted as friends of Jesus. (John 15: 14-15)
On the other hand, the wrong friends can harm us. Amnon’s friend gave him counsel that ultimately lead to death. (II Samuel 13:3) Haman’s friends commiserated with him in his plot against the Jews and none of them warned against carrying out the wicked scheme (Esther 5.) Job’s friends came to wrong conclusions about Job’s troubles and could not help him see God’s providential hand in difficult circumstances (throughout Job.) We are warned not to make friends of an angry man (Proverbs 22:24) or with worldly people, who are God’s enemies (James 4:4.) Finally, we are warned that evil or ungodly companions can corrupt us (I Corinthians 15:33.)
Our daughter learned some valuable lessons about friends through that incident. She still yearned for a close friend and even had other disappointments of friends professing faith in Christ, then falling away from that profession. Her tender heart discovered that in Christ “there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24) Several years later God graciously granted her the desire of her heart by bringing a newly saved classmate to our church. This girl loves the Lord, is obedient to the Scriptures and wants to serve God with all her heart. Our daughter gratefully discovered the joy of having the right kind of friends.