Selected Proverbs: April 13—Forging godly relationships
Apr 6, 2014
By MARK A. RATHEL

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
The older I become the more I discover friendships mean more to me. As one who is an introvert by natural disposition, I particularly cherish the rich friendships I have within the community of faith. Not surprisingly, friendship is an important theme within God’s Wisdom Book. Proverbs contains godly wisdom for choosing friends, maintaining friends, and how to deal with friction points with our friends.

What does Proverbs teach about creating and maintaining positive healthy friendships and moving beyond the tension points that ruin friendships?

First, according to Proverbs, friendships may have positive or negative consequences. First, a believer should seek to avoid caustic, negative relationships in favor of positive, godly relationships. Most frequently, Proverbs highlights anger as a cause of unhealthy friendships. A wise individual avoids people with anger problems (22:24-25). A hothead loses the ability to think clearly about situations, acts impetuously, and creates destructive patterns. Anger is infectious (learn his ways) and is as lethal as a snare according to 22:25. Such a quarrelsome person love to offend people (17:19), and their attitude adds fuel to the fire rather than extinguishing the flames of anger (26:21). Second, a believer should commit to positive, healthy friendships. We become like our friends; therefore, choosing wise friends produces wisdom in us (13:20). Yet, believers should desire to positively impact friends by modeling the qualities of loyalty and faithfulness (14:21).

Second, Proverbs exalts the value of patience. An individual with a quick-temper acts foolishly 14:17). The Hebrew term translated “quick temper” literally means individual of nose, that is, an individual whose emotional anger is expressed in facial expressions and breathing. Such an individual is “short of nose” like an angry bull ready to charge. A hot-tempered individual commits “folly,” a term in Proverbs for one morally challenged. Quick-tempered anger is the opposite of the character of God. In Exodus 34:6, God revealed Himself as “slow to anger”—literally “long of nostril.” Anger in relationships is never a manifestation of godliness. Rather than a quick-temper, a wise individual learns to overlook offenses (19:11). A person taking the time to develop insight into an issue develops patience. The Hebrew term for “patience” means “to be long of nostril,” hence like God. Patience means overlooking an offense or a violation of a moral principal. Proverbs attributes the motive to overlooking the offenses of others to love (10:12; 17:9). According to Proverbs 19:11 HCSB, forgiveness is a virtue. Perhaps a better translation affirms forgiveness as a beautiful decorative ornament. 

Third, Proverbs encourages believers to develop friendships by modeling loyalty and love. The good friend possesses the following characteristics of loving loyalty. First, a wise friend exhibits constancy. Some people desire friendship for personal benefit (19:4). A true friend loves during the good times as well as the bad times (17:17). Friendships are too valuable to abandon (27:10). Second, a wise friend communicates with friends with honesty. Friendship means not flattering a friend; flattery results in setting a net to entrap (29:5). Words spoken in honesty to help a friend may appear to be wounds but actually the painful words are a loving expression of commitment to the friendship by honesty (27:6). A faithful friend speaks painful words does more good than the false kisses of an enemy. Third, the counsel of a true friend provides “sweetness” in life (27:9). Sweetness is a metaphor of pleasant delight to one’s soul.

The benefit of a study of friendship in Proverbs comes from seeking to answer the question, “What kind of friend am I?” Do I exhibit the qualities of a wise friend? To whom do I need to befriend? Do I exhibit patience with my friends? Do I model loyalty?

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