In today’s society, we throw the word “friend” around almost as flippantly as we use the word “love.” We say we “love” a certain type of food or music. Then we say we “love” our family members.
Sometimes we say we “love” someone of the opposite sex when we’re simply describing an emotion we’re feeling rather than a commitment for which we’re willing to die.
Similarly, we have lists of “friends” on social media. We mention people being our friends when they’re just acquaintances. Most of what we describe as “friends” are what are commonly called “fair-weather friends.” They’re with us when things are going great, but when we hit hard times, they vanish.
The Bible offers a very different view of friendship. In Proverbs, we read, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17 ESV) This passage shows that friendship involves loving someone unconditionally.
It also includes a willingness to go through hard times with our friends, staying as close to them as a brother would (or should) with his sibling.
Jesus spoke of such friendship when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15 ESV)
Jesus speaks of the sacrificial and unconditional love that forms the foundation of true friendship. True friendship is established on true love, and true love is only found in Christ.
Jesus was willing to endure the suffering of the cross and sacrifice His life because of the love He has for His friends.
We need that type of friendship.
First, we need the friendship with Christ we receive when we surrender our lives to Him as Lord and Savior. And we also need friends who reflect His love.
These are friends who encourage us to follow Christ. They’re willing to walk with us through hardship and suffering. They’ll endure suffering and put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. They love us, sacrificially. These are what my friend Clayton King calls foxhole friends.
In the Army, we called them our “battle buddy.” Our battle buddies would go with us through the battlefield and watch our backs. They were willing to endure hardship and give up their lives on our behalf.
I have the blessing of having a few battle buddies. And Command Sergeant Major Joe Butler is one of my battle buddies.
Joe exemplifies biblical friendship. When we were deployed on Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Enduring Freedom, Joe showed the love of Christ to me in both my successes and my failures. He was a consistent source of encouragement and, at the same time, wasn’t afraid to tell me as a Christian brother things I might need to hear but not want to hear.
Even better, our friendship has carried on past our time in the Army. Whenever Joe and I have a conversation, it’s like we pick up right where we left off.
Now, I have the privilege recently of walking with Joe through what appears to be the last days of his life. If the Lord doesn’t miraculously heal him here on Earth, Joe will soon enter into the presence of Jesus Christ.
Still, he continues to display what it means to be a foxhole friend and a battle buddy to his family and his friends.
We all need friends like Joe Butler in our lives, men and women who help us grow closer to Christ and who support us as we run this race of the Christian life.
I’m trying my best to be that kind of a friend in this season of Joe’s life. I pray I’ll live like Jesus by being a Christ-like friend like Joe. He’s blessed me with His love as a Christian brother and friend, and now I aim to give that back.
Will you commit to live like Jesus by being a friend like that to someone? All of us need foxhole friends, friends who’ll love us unconditionally and help us grow closer to Christ as we walk this journey of faith. And we need to be that kind of a friend to others.