Do your kids have real friends? What is a true friendship? Join AMBrewster as he equips Christian parents to teach their children about friends and enemies and to treat them. Parenting is never easier than when you teach your children God’s plan for life!
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Welcome back to our three-part study on friendship and your kids.
Last time we looked at the enormity of the issue, and — to be honest — we discovered that children really have no idea what friendship is. The concept is so fluid that each of us can have our own definitions.
And the reality is that you and your kids probably have different definitions from each other. And I guarantee that you have different definitions for what a “good” friend is.
So, at times like these, whose definition is best?
Today we turn to God’s Word to understand the biblical definition of a friend, because His opinion is the only one that matters.
But before we do that, please take a moment to rate and review the show in iTunes and/or Facebook. It’s such a blessing to us, and it helps connect us with other searching parents.
Of course, if you’re new, please don’t feel the need to rate or review. Get to know us first. I always encourage people to start back in our pilot season to get to know us and follow the logical train of thought that has brought us to this point. Each season is packed with biblical principles for parenting.
And — Lord willing — after spending some time with us, you too will look forward to leaving us a 5-star review like so many others.
Okay, so what does the Bible have to say about your kids’ friends?
The English words “friend” and “friends” appear in Scripture over 100 times. But because it shows up so often, and since there’s so much that can be said, I want to simplify the discussion by dealing with just one concept.
I believe that understanding this biblical Truth will frame everything else you and your kids need to know about friendship.
So, we have to start with this one Truth, and then after we lay that foundation, we’re going to answer five questions concerning your kids’ friends.
So, let’s start by looking at two passages; one from the Old Testament and the other from the New.
The Old Testament passage is Proverbs 17:17, which says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
And then let’s jump over to John 15:13-14, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Now, I know how trite this may sound, but it’s not. God’s Word is never trite.
The reality is that a friend loves — truly, biblically loves.
Now, we run the risk of confusing our understanding of friendship even more when we say this.
Please, if you or your family do not yet have a biblical working-definition of love, we took nine episodes (starting in number 128) to understand God’s definition of love, and you should listen to it, discuss it, learn it, and believe it.
It is imperative that we stop believing the world’s understanding of love. The world’s messed up ideas concerning love, friendship, and romance are at the root of every relationship issue and sin in the world today.
As Christians, we cannot afford to redefine love or friendship. Please, take your children through The Four Family Loves, starting in episode 128. Don’t wait! It’s that important.
Because biblical love is at the root of biblical friendship, you and your children won’t be able to agree on what a good friend is until you can agree with God about what love is.
And with a name like Truth.Love.Parent. I can tell you that we’ve discussed the concept quite a bit.
“A friend loves at all times,” and “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
So, what does this mean for your children’s relationships?
1. Question number one is this: Who are your kids’ real friends?
The answer? Those who love them. “Who loves them?” you ask. Those who want God’s best interest for them.
Now, this opens up a huge can of worms, and I’m going to deal with it as succinctly as I did with my kids a week or so ago.
Just because the world doesn’t define their words correctly doesn’t mean we have to accept their definitions. But, to avoid confusion and not unnecessarily cause pain, I’m careful to define my terms when I believe there may be a disagreement.
Here’s what I mean: the word “friend” is thrown around for nearly everyone. My daughter would see a stranger at the park and then introduce me to her “friend” moments later. Interestingly enough, I would ask the child’s name and my daughter wouldn’t know it.
Is that a friend? Do I want my daughter thinking that a friendly child she just met in the park is what I’m referring to when I say, “friend”?
What about classmates? Generally speaking, as long as the kids in your child’s class aren’t unkind to them, and as long as they’ve had a positive interaction with that child at some point, your kid will likely consider them to be friends.
Is that what you want your child’s definition of friend to be?
Interestingly, your children will become more discriminatory in their use of that word as they get older. As they refine their own understanding of friendship, they will likely refer to fewer and fewer people as friends.
So, I’ve taught my children the biblical definition of a friend, and when I asked them who their friends are, both my 11 year old son and 8 year old daughter promptly replied (with no coaching), “You and mom are our closest friends.”
When asked if anyone else was a true friend to them, they each said, “Not really.”
Now, please understand, this is not bad. Your children will never be hurt or confused if you ground their reality on God’s Word.
My children have absolutely no problem with the fact that they have no children their age that they feel comfortable calling their friends. They have many playmates, acquaintances, companions, and peers that they love dearly, but they’re saving the title “friend” for people who actually live up to the name.
So, what happens when a child at the park or at Sunday School asks, “Are we friends?”
I’ve instructed my children to ask a followup question, “What do you mean by that?” If the child responds with something like, “Do you like hanging out with me?” or “Don’t we have so much fun together?” I’ve encouraged my children to answer honestly. “Yes, I like hanging out with you,” or “Totally, we have a lot of fun.”
But they’ve also been taught to say the hard things if necessary. If a child is pushing them to admit that they’re best friends forever — which, incidentally, has never happened — my children should say something like, “A best friend wants God’s best for me, and loves me the way He loves me. I’d be very happy if you wanted to be my best friend, but it’s a big job.”
And that’s a fantastic, loving, honest, and biblical answer.
So, if we take a moment to consider our children, we will realize that they likely have few to no true friends.
This may be because they’re young and everyone their age is immature and selfish. It may also be because your children hang out with kids who don’t care about following Christ.
Either way, the reality is, we have to teach our children to recognize a true friend when they see one and to want to hang out with those people.
A true friend is not merely someone you like to be with. They’re not simply fun to hang around. They’re not just someone with whom you have a lot in common. They’re not merely someone who wears the other half of your BFF necklace.
Now, I know how counter-cultural this sounds. I know how strange it may feel.
But you know all of this to be true.
How many of your “friends” from elementary or junior high or senior high or college do you even talk to today? How many of them really cared about you relationship with God? How many of them actually encouraged you to do right and discouraged disobedience and sin?
How many of the people in your life today would you honestly die for?
I promise you that if you have people who truly invest in you and love you as God loves you and are actively working to encourage your relationship with God, you would think very differently about this topic.
And perhaps, maybe this is the case because you don’t truly have any real friends yourself.
Let me be honest, the people I can call true, biblical friends can be counted on two hands . . . and most of them don’t live anywhere near me.
How many of the people we interact with from day to day actually speak and act in a way that shows us they care about the most important part of who we are — our relationship with God?
Read through the one-anothers in the Bible and ask yourself how many people in your life actually do those things. If you have some, those are friends, and the same is true of your children.
2. So, this brings up a second question that we asked last time: Does friendship have to be reciprocal?
And the answer is unequivocally, “No.”
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. God loves everyone, even the people who are His enemy. He laid down His life for the world. But the world doesn’t even know Him.
God is the best friend any of us will ever have, but many people hate Him or don’t believe in Him or are angry with Him. Does that mean He’s not our friend?
The biblical reality is that I need to be everyone’s friend. Romans 13:8 says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
God expects me to love everyone, therefore, God expects me to be a friend to everyone. There’s no one for whom I shouldn’t want God’s best in there lives. There’s no one I shouldn’t introduce to Him. There’s no one I shouldn’t point to Him, encourage in Him, admonish in Him, and edify in Him.
My children have been tasked by God to be everyone’s best friend, and — if your children are born again — they have too.
But that doesn’t mean that everyone will be their friend. In fact, most people will not want to be a biblical friend. In fact, if you truly love people and speak Truth to them and want God’s best interest for their lives, there will be people who will hate you for it and consider you an enemy.
Just keep in mind that their delusion shouldn’t affect you or your kids.
Just keep being their friend, and praise God when you find people who will love you back.
And, speaking of enemies, question number three is . . .
3. What do you call someone who encourages you to do things that hurt you?
If someone encouraged your children to take drugs, you would rightly say that they’re not a friend. And you would be right.
However — as a side note — if you call someone a “bad friend,” you’re only adding to the confusion. You can no more have a “bad friend” than you have a “good enemy.” Okay?
Anyway, moving on, if someone encouraged your children to cut off their leg, shoot themselves, or break the law, you would be right to say that they’re not a friend.
So, what are they? Technically speaking, they’re enemies. Only enemies seek your destruction.
The problem is that Satan is conniving enough to know that the best enemies call themselves friends. No doubt, Eve would have considered the serpent to be very friendly.
Spies and double-agents do their jobs well by convincing you that they’re friends.
Some kids will actively act like nice people but set out to encourage your children to do things that are harmful because they don’t like your child. But what makes them any different from the ones who actively encourage your children to sin who actually like hanging out with your child?
This is what we call a confused double-agent.
We see this from time to time in movies. A double-agent “falls in love” with the enemy and because’s he’s actively working to destroy the enemy, he suffers with guilt and confusion, and — in the end — he’ll have to be an enemy or a friend, he can’t be both.
Kids who like hanging out with your child because your kids are just so cool, but who encourage them to disobey, lie, steal, disrespect, or look at inappropriate things are not friends. It doesn’t really matter that they played so well together third grade. It doesn’t matter that most of their interactions are benign. When someone encourages your child to sin against God — either deliberately or by example — that person is acting like an enemy.
Just as your children have to have a biblical understanding of friendship, they have to know what an enemy is as well.
And — again — as counterintuitive as this may sound, we all do this. We teach our children the dangers of strangers. We tell them that people who would introduce them to drugs or touch them inappropriately or encourage them to cheat on a test aren’t friends.
We just need to be a little more honest with our kids. The children who are unkind to your kid’s younger siblings, the children who whine at their parents, the kids who are selfish and sassy and have bad attitudes are just as big of a problem as the kids who encourage your little ones to lie.
In fact, I’m going to go so far to say that they’re more of a problem. In James the Bible says that a massive fire can be started with a single, tiny spark. We understand the danger of a blowtorch, but I think we far too often downplay the destructive force of the spark.
These benign friends, those who don’t encourage our children in the Lord, those who are mostly neutral people, but whose lives are a testament to practically-Godless living, are enemies.
Okay, so our first question was, “Who are my kids’ friends?” And the answer is, “Anyone who works to accomplish God’s best for your kids.”
The second question was, “Does friendship have to be reciprocal?” And the answer is, “No.” Your children should be everyone’s friends, but that doesn’t mean everyone will be their friend.
And the third question was, “What do you call someone who encourages you to do things that hurt you?” Obviously, those people are enemies.
So, the logical fourth question is . . .
4. Does being enemies have to be reciprocal?
And — of course — the answer is, “No.”
Listen, this understanding will greatly help your kids.
How many people have chosen to be unkind to someone else simply because that person has unkind to them?
What if you don’t have to be an enemy just because someone is your enemy? What freedom that realization brings!
That girl doesn’t like you? Fine. Invite her to your party anyway.
When I was five, there was this big first grader who would frequently knock me on the ground and sit on my chest at recess. When I complained to my mom, she said, “It sounds to me like he needs a friend. The next time he does that, why don’t you ask him if he wants to be your friend.”
I have to admit, I thought my mom was crazy.
But I distinctly remember lying on the ground with this first grader on my chest — his head silhouetted in the sun — and I remember thinking, “What’s it going to hurt?” And I could hear the hesitancy in my own voice as I asked, “Do you want to be my friend?”
Well, let me tell you. Three things happened.
My mom’s first recourse was to tell me to be a friend even though he was being an enemy.
What a change we would see in this world if we all did the same.
5. And our fifth question is very simple: Is it okay to be someone's enemy?
Obviously, no. God commands us to love those who are enemies to us and do good to those who hurt us.
Now, we’ve introduced many of these concepts before. There are a number of episodes that would be a fantastic supplement to today’s discussion.
Episode 30, “Teens and Dating | what God has to say about their crush” applies these same principles to romantic relationships.
As I mentioned before, "The Four Family Loves” series is vital to this discussion. I cannot stress it enough. When your child understand what true love is, they won’t struggle with understanding what a good friend is.
Episode 136 is called “Do You Really Want to Be Their Friend? | the requirement of befriending your kids.” It applies many of these principles to our parenting.
And all of this is the foundation of our Anti-terrorism series that started in episode 37. Even when our child has made herself our enemy, we must be her friend.
Of course, every episode we have on how to parent to the glory of God — which is (you know) all of them — is teaching us how to be friends.
Here’s the show in a nutshell:
Now, I need to stop here and clarify something really quickly. Your children do not need to hang out with a bad influence simply because God commanded your child to love them.
My own parents regret encouraging me to hang out with certain people when I was in high school because they were bad influences on me, and instead of being a good influence to them, I succumbed to their bad influences.
The most loving thing your child can do is not casually hang out with an enemy. They need to love God first and foremost. This is why God commands us not to walk, stand, and sit with people who reject Him and His truth.
The New Testament tells us that though we’re not to fellowship with people like that, we should have a relationship that allows us to share the Gospel. This is evangelism. Any opportunity your child has to share Christ with that enemy is fantastic, but that doesn’t mean you schedule weekly play dates or let them have monthly sleepovers.
I suggest children like this can be invited over to your house to interact with your children and you. You can be a good testimony, share God’s Truth and love, and be there to debrief your kid when the other child goes home.
Now, I know this topic was big, controversial, and likely should have been covered over at least three episodes to do it justice.
I know we will return to this topic many times over the years, and we still have one more part of this series next time, but that doesn’t change the fact that this countercultural understanding of friendship may be confusing.
Please don’t hesitate to seek clarification by reaching out to counselor@TruthLoveParent.com. We would love to help you apply God’s ideas about friendship in your home.
There are so many other good examples about which we could talk — David and Jonathan, Paul and Barnabas, Jesus and the Disciples — but we just don’t have the time.
So, next time we’re going to talk about what to do if your child has “bad friend.” I had to include “bad friend” in the title because so many people will agree their children have “bad friends,” but they won’t realize those kids are actually enemies.
So, we’re going to discuss how to parent your children to the understanding that this supposed friend is actually an enemy and what to do about it.
Now, if you need some more time to work through these concepts, we have free episodes notes at TruthLoveParent.com. You can download the notes and study them at your leisure. And many listeners have told me they love to go back and re-listen to episodes. Whatever helps you.
And if you feel gutsy enough to promote biblical, counter-cultural thinking, please share this on Facebook. See how many of your social media “friends” are true, biblical friends.
And — before I go — I want to mention two true friends of the ministry. Scott and Mindee love the Lord, love TLP, and love you. And they give of themselves every month to help this ministry continue applying God’s Word to families all over the world.
If you would like to be a friend of TLP, please click on the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link in the description to learn more about how you can help us accomplish God’s best interest for our lives.
Listen, neither we nor our children have to be confused by God’s understanding of the concepts He created. God created love, He created friendship, and He gets to decide what they mean.
You will never fail when you teach your children what the Bible says about friends.
So — in order to equip you to pass this information on to your kids — we’ll see you next time.
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