Friendships: Dealing Wisely With People
While Jesus was at the Passover Feast , the number of his followers began to grow, and many gave their allegiance to him because of all the miraculous signs they had seen him doing! But Jesus did not yet entrust himself to them, because he knew how fickle human hearts can be. He didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature, for he fully understood what man was capable of doing. John 2:23-25 (The Passion Translation, TPT)
Jesus, Who is to be our example and the pattern we follow, understood human nature and did not share His personal business with everyone. We would do well to follow His lead and learn to deal wisely with people, interacting with them on the level of our relationships with them. Some people lose sight of the fact that there are levels of relationship and they should be handled differently. We can see this in the life of Jesus. During His earthly ministry, we see the following levels of relationships Jesus had with His followers:
The masses that followed Him. There were those who followed for the purpose of being entertained or to get food or other material goods. There will always be people who want a relationship only for what they can get from it. Jesus cared about these people and, as the Father led, He taught them and met some of their physical needs. However, He did not allow them access to His personal life and intimate ministry. We would call this level of friendship “acquaintances.”
The seventy disciples. Jesus selected seventy and sent them out. These people obviously had more access to Jesus and received more teaching from Him than the general masses did. In our lives, we would probably call this level “colleagues,” referring to co-workers and others with whom we frequently interact but with whom we do not have a close friendship.
The twelve. Jesus chose twelve disciples to be a part of His group of friends. They were with Him everyday, and they had insight into His mission and goals. With them He shared the deeper meaning of His teachings and revealed greater information of the kingdom of God. Today, we might equate this with our “buddies,” or a “circle of friends,” a group we hang out with but with whom we do not share every intimate detail of our lives.
The three. Peter, James, and John had a level of friendship with Jesus that the others did not. He gave them access to see more of Who he really was, even permitting them to see Him in His transfigured state as He spoke with Moses and Elijah. We would call these our “close friends.”
John. The Apostle John understood the love Jesus had for him and he enjoyed the closest relationship that any earthly person had with Jesus. We see evidence of their close friendship in the fact that John felt comfortable leaning his head on Jesus as they all celebrated the Passover meal in the upper room. When Jesus was on the cross, He entrusted His mother to the care of John. And John was the disciple to whom the revelation of Jesus Christ was given (documented in the book of Revelation). The close affection they shared would indicate that John was what we would call His “best friend.”
The Father. Of course, Jesus’ deepest and most intimate relationship was (and still is) with His Heavenly Father. He looked to Him for direction in everything He said and did, and he trusted Him with His very life. The same is true for us. Our primary, and most intimate, relationship should be with the Lord. He is the only One who truly understands us and loves and accepts us unconditionally. He cares for us and will never hurt us. He is our “intimate confidante.”
It is clear that Jesus used wisdom in dealing with people and did not allow everyone the same amount of access to His life. We need to do the same. We should not tell an acquaintance, or even a colleague, the details about our lives that we might share with a best friend. We must use wisdom and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in determining who we can trust and to what extent we allow them into our lives. I have seen people who will tell acquaintances or colleagues intimate details of their lives. This is dangerous and unwise. They often do so because they lack wisdom or because they do not have a best friend with whom to talk. If we don’t happen to have a spouse or someone trustworthy that we would consider a best friend, we need to remember that as believers we have God as our Confidante. We do not need to rely on people in outer circles of relationship for discussing intimate matters.
Proverbs, often called the book of wisdom, gives valuable advice on friendship, and I will close with a few verses from it.
You can trust a friend who wounds you with his honesty, but your enemy’s pretended flattery comes from insincerity. Proverbs 27:6 (The Passion Translation, TPT)
In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend. Proverbs 27:17 (The Voice, VOICE)
The heart is delighted by the fragrance of oil and sweet perfumes, and in just the same way, the soul is sweetened by the wise counsel of a friend. Proverbs 27:9 (The Voice, VOICE)
Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious— don’t get infected. Proverbs 22:24 (The Message, MSG)
Someone with many so-called friends may end up friendless, but a true friend is closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 (The Voice, VOICE)
A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity. Proverbs 17:17 (Amplified Bible Classic Edition, AMPC)