10 Harmful Types of Friends and How to Set Boundaries with Each

I just can’t wait to be friends with everyone!” My friend, more reserved than my hyperactive, people loving self, laughed as if I’d lost my mind. The infamous mantra sticks nearly two decades later. When we seek God’s standard for friendship, and follow Jesus’ example, the Holy Spirit will help us spread the love of Jesus.

But what about unhealthy friendships? What is God’s standard for our friendship with those who drain our energy, deplete our resources and leave us feeling stressed and frustrated? God’s Word speaks truth into all of our relationships, and there is wisdom to be found for how to deal with that friendship that isn’t quite as healthy as it could be.

Here are 10 potentially unhealthy types friends, and how to love them within the good boundaries God has given us. 

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10 Friendships of the Bible to Learn From

“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

God’s intention of friendship is love. Friendship should be less about what we get out of it and more about how we can serve God through it. 1 Corinthians 13:13 reminds us that out of “faith, hope, and love… the greatest of these is love.”

Jesus reiterated the importance of love when he reminded His followers to love God first with all their heart and soul (Matthew 22:37) and then love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:39)

These ten friendships put God first and I believe when we model ours after these examples, we will experience friendship the way God intended us to.

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How to Protect your Family from Bullying

“Love your enemies. Pray for those who torment and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44 Voice Paraphrase)

Why would Jesus tell us to pray for someone that has snuck past our radar and hurt our family? The “bully” is a beloved child of God, too. The pain in their life is fueling their wrath towards us.

In a society where the hate is palpable, we have to slow down and sit with our Savior before we launch into our defensive attack. Through our actions and reactions towards bullying, we can lead the way for others who find themselves in similar situations. Even though it feels personal, it’s not. 

“The devil has come to kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). He wants us to fight each other like plastic foosball players, but Jesus has already crushed His agenda. If we refuse to play into it, we will experience what He came to give us: life to the full. (John 10:10 b). 

How to Protect Your Family from Bullying: 

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Who Were Jesus’ Friends

“You are my friends.” (John 15:14)

Jesus had a close circle of 12 on this earth, but He calls us friends, too. The NKJV Chronological Bible Notes for this verse explain,“While He was not implying that His friends were His equals, He was offering to share with them what belonged to Him.” And the second half of John 15:14, “You are my friends, if you do what I command,” gives us a glimpse into Jesus’ perspective of friendship. 

It’s important to consider what friendship meant in Bible times. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible states that “the language of friendship was applied to patron-client relationships, in which patrons supplied some needs of clients.” NKJV Chronological Study Bible Notes says, “In the Roman world, a ‘friend’ was often a political ally who owed one a favor, or a more powerful patron on whom one could depend.”

But we don’t often think of the friends of Jesus as political allies or business acquaintances. Jesus took a concept familiar to those that surrounded Him at the time, and redefined what it meant to be a friend. “Jesus is our model for love… If believers obey His command to love, they enjoy the intimacy of His friendship. Friendship… is not a once-for-all gift, but develops as the result of obeying Jesus’ command to love” (NKJV Study Bible).

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ALL OF THE FRIENDS …

“Friends with Everyone” is the quest to love people in our lives well. God places people in our lives purposefully. As Christians, we are called to reach outside of our comfort zones in order to serve the people bordering our everyday lives.

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. 

To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. 

I have become all tings to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV (emphasis mine.)

Love finds common ground. Paul isn’t advising us to change for people in these verses. He’s challenging us to find common ground with the people in our lives. There is common ground to be found. It’s not an easy quest. There are lines we will be tempted to cross and company we wish would could keep closer. We will be called to ruffle a few feathers in righteousness. We will be left out, called out, questioned, and ridiculed. Being friends with everyone requires us to flip all of the hurt into forgiveness, and trust God with transformation.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV

We wouldn’t die for someone that hurt us. We wouldn’t die for someone who didn’t apologize for the hurt they caused …and we surely wouldn’t die for someone intent upon hurting us again. Jesus did. Compassion and kindness come from Him. All of us continue to fall short every day, yet the forgiveness Jesus died to grant us, to go before us and pave for us, isn’t effected by our inability to overcome the broken world we live in. He has already defeated what we could …and cannot. It. Is. Done. A true understanding of forgiveness breaks the cycle of hurt and allows the love of Christ to flow through our lives.

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 NIV

I believe we take this verse out of context when we use it as an excuse to shun people who are different from us. What good is all of our wisdom about Christ, if we hide from the people that don’t know what we know? Like Paul, through adversity …seek diversity. But we must keep our eyes on Jesus. He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He was friends with everyone, without sacrificing His mission.

Jesus had a close group of twelve friends, and out them three were extremely close to Jesus. Still one, John, was Jesus’ best friend on earth. We’re clearly called to choose our close circle of friends with care, but leave the door open. May our light reflect His Love.

I shudder to think of all the rich friendships I would have missed out on, had I not decided to leave my Monday morning Bible Study group open to anyone. Whether or not they go to church or believe in God is between them and Him. Our job is to open the door and share what we know.

“Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious- don’t get infected.” Proverbs 22:24-25 MSG

The more friends we have, the greater the risk of getting hurt. Learning how to survive devastating blows to our character and create healthy boundaries is all part of the package. Can I tell you something? It’s through our reaction to those situations that our faith is put on display the most.

Loving the people in our lives well leads us to brotherly and sisterly love. As we grow in wisdom and away from the lessons of our past, God is faithful to provide friends that are racing towards Christ alongside us. Never take these friends for granted. These are the best friends. The ones who don’t get all awkward and subject-change when we start to talk about Jesus. No, these are the friends who lean in to learn alongside of us. Every broken hearted moment is worth it to find these people in life. But we can’t stay there. 

We are called to be friends with everyone. 

Happy Friending, 

Megs