The Difference Between Cultural and Biblical Friendship


Friends. They make life more colorful, more sweet, more exciting, more fun, more meaningful, more bearable. It has been said that “friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” Some of my closest girlfriends and I lovingly refer to each other as “sister” and tell each other “I love you” often. These friendships have seen the ups and downs of life, and we have stood with one another through trials and tragedies, heart breaks, divorce, and depression. We have shared in each other’s joys of marriage, child birth, career advancements, and other successes. These are the kinds of friends who “stick closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

We are all created with this God-given desire for friendship, to live in community with people who really know us. But real-life friendships often don’t happen as effortlessly as they seem to in movies or tv shows. Maybe a superficial friendshipone that has no expectations, demands, or accountabilitycan be relatively easy and simple, but the kind of iron-sharpening-iron relationships seen in scripture must be developed intentionally, over time, with trust and forgiveness. Cultivating true biblical friendship requires us to put aside our egos and pride so God can use our friends to sharpen and sanctify us.

So, what does culture tell us about friendship, and in contrast, what does Scripture say about biblical friendship? Let’s glean some wisdom from the book of Proverbs and compare the two:

1. Culture: Make friends with people with similar social status as you or who have something to offer youstatus, popularity, etc.                                                                                     

Bible: Proverbs 14:20 points out this ugly tendency of the human heart when it says, “the poor are shunned by even their neighbors, but the rich have many friends.” We should instead seek out friendships with those who possess godly wisdom (Proverbs 13:20), which God gives impartially across races and socioeconomic statuses.

2. Culture: Friends bond over sharing gossip; it’s ok to gossip if it is just with your best friend/confidante.                                     

Bible: Proverbs 20:19 warns us about gossip,  “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.” Even when we think we are justified in telling “our side” to others, Proverbs 17:9 assures us “whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” Commit to eliminate all forms of gossip.

3. Culture: Tell friends what they want to hear and agree with them in order to avoid conflict.

Bible: While we are called to be peacemakers, being a peacemaker does not mean agreeing with everything. Be weary of flattering tongues (Proverbs 28:23; Proverbs 29:5) and take  Proverbs 27:6 to heart. It says “wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” True friends tell the truth in love because they care enough to want the best for us. We must humble ourselves to be able to hear and accept the sometimes painful truth.

4. Culture: Eliminate draining people from your life. Drop a friend if conflict arises or if they are are too high-maintenance.                                                                                                    

Bible: Proverbs 17:17 goes directly against the cultural grain by explaining, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Stay constant. Set healthy boundaries if necessary, but continue to serve, love, and show compassion, even if you aren’t getting much in return.

True friendship is a blessing from God. None of us will ever be a perfect friend, but we can look to Jesus as our perfect example. All of these principles from Proverbs can be distilled down to this teaching of Jesus: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Jesus was the perfect example of sacrificial love, ultimately losing his life in order that we might be called His friend.

Things to consider:

  • Do you look to Jesus as your closest friend?
  • How can your friendship with Jesus lead you to be a better friend to others?
  • In what ways do you need to be a better friend and how can you make steps towards that today?

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Meet the Author!

Taylor is the wife of Council Road's Groups Pastor, Micah White, and mother to Navy and Foster. She works as a PA in Oklahoma City, and is also passionate about serving and edifying the local Church. She most enjoys time with her family, but can also be found reading, teaching, making music, hand-lettering, and hosting gatherings. She loves a friendly debate and a good laugh.