By Dr. Harold Sala
There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother — Proverbs 18:24, NLT
In his book Quality Friendship, Gary Inrig tells about two friends who enlisted in the military, were sent overseas together, and fought alongside each other. During an enemy attack, one of the men was critically wounded and was unable to crawl back to the safety of the foxhole. The friend lay dying in a kind of no man’s land created by the crossfire of the two opposing sides.
Hearing the cries of his wounded buddy, the soldier decided to try to rescue his friend, but the sergeant in charge yelled, “It’s too late. You can’t do him any good, and you’ll only get yourself killed.” Realizing that it was almost suicidal to try, the man nonetheless started crawling towards his friend.
He made it, too. Then a few minutes later, half-crawling, half-staggering, he made it back with his friend, cradled in his arms, dead. Rescuing his friend, the soldier himself had taken several hits and now was dying.
The sergeant was both angry and moved with emotion as he cried, “What a waste. He’s dead and you’re dying. It just wasn’t worth it.” Gasping for breath the soldier cried, “Oh, yes, it was, Sarge. When I got to him, the only thing he said was, ‘I knew you’d come, Jim!’”
What could better illustrate the truth of what Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)? Have you made the discovery that you have lots of acquaintances in life, and some who want to be known as your friends—especially when you have money or throw parties with good food—but there are few individuals who are real friends, the kind that would risk his or her life for you, the kind that would go to the wall with you no matter what you have done, no matters what happens?
Actually, there are three levels of friendship: casual, non-committed, and dedicated. In the first group are many who really should be considered acquaintances. Calling them friends is, of course, accommodating and gracious on your part. But if you dropped off the end of the pier somewhere, it would take a considerable length of time for them to find out about your disaster. Few tears would be shed.
The second circle of friends is made of the ones that you meet socially—in church, in business, in your community. When your name comes up, they identify with you as a friend, especially if you have more money, or are better looking, or more intelligent than they. These friends, however, would disappear very quickly if your company went broke, or your name appeared in the paper in conjunction with a plot to overthrow the local school board. When your name came up, they are the ones who would say, “You, know, I never was sure about that guy. There was always something a little shady about him.”
Take time to count the number of real friends that you have–the ones who are absolutely committed to you, no matter what might happen. Should you count as many as you have fingers on one hand, you are blessed, and should you count as many as the fingers on both hands, you should shout with joy. As the writer of Proverbs put it 3000 years ago, “There are ‘friends’ who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NLT)
Resource reading: Proverbs 18.