2. The tendency toward deceit.
Verse 25 says that we must speak honestly in our friendship, but because we are often driven by our own purpose and not the Lord’s, we will be tempted to manipulate the truth to get what we want from the other person. This is one reason Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37)
3. The tendency toward anger.
Verses 26-27 quote Psalm 4:4. It’s not a sin to be angry; you should be righteously angered when a friend sins against you. However, sin comes into play and the devil gets a foothold when we attempt to control the relationship by venting our anger or by holding it over our friend’s head to manipulate them.
4. The tendency toward selfishness.
Verse 28 may feel hard to relate to at first, if you’re employed or a hard worker and not a thief by definition of local law. So think about it in a more simple way: How often do you protect or hold on to what you have, rather than offer it to your friend in an effort to serve them?
5. The tendency toward unhelpful communication.
Verses 29-30 warn us that rather than using our language to build others up, we tend to use words to ensure that we have the top spot in our friendship. Proverbs 18:21 offers a more severe warning: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
6. The tendency toward division.
Again, verse 31 may feel unrelatable at first, especially if you haven’t gotten into a brawl with your friend! However, it’s much more common for us to view our friend as some type of adversary, rather than a companion in the struggle of relationship.
7. The tendency toward an unforgiving spirit.
The final verse in the chapter is the ultimate definition of a gospel friendship. Rather than want to make a friend pay for their wrongs against us, we should be the first to forgive, because no one forgives more freely than the person who knows how much they’ve been forgiven in Christ.
MY THREE FINAL THOUGHTS ON AN UNHEALTHY FRIENDSHIP
After reading a passage of Scripture like that, I typically respond with three emotions:
- Burdened by the call of the Christian life
- Overwhelmed with the amount of trademarks to remember
- Filled with regret over past sins I committed in friendships
Here’s what I tell myself in those moments, and what I would tell you:
- There is forgiving mercy and empowering grace for every area of struggle in the Christian life. God never exposes our sin to ridicule us, but rather forgives us and invites us to grow in the likeness of Christ.
- Instead of trying to memorize or apply all seven trademarks at once, just focus on one or two that the Holy Spirit convicts you of. Print this article off or save it to your phone and come back to it every once and a while.
- God’s timing is always right. I wish I could go back in time and pull words out of the ears of my wife, children and friends, but in that moment, I was blind. God chose to reveal truths to me later on, and instead of trying to change God’s timing, I should focus on what he has revealed to me today.
May God bless you as you take full advantage of his new morning mercies as you build a gospel-centered friendship!