The Bible describes a true friend as one who sticks closer than a brother, is constant in his loyalty and friendliness, comes to the aid of his companion in distress and gives counsel to him in faithfulness. (Prov. 18:24; 17:17; 27:6, 9) On the other hand, the rich and givers of presents have many friends who are interested only in the selfish benefits derived from the friendship. (Prov. 14:20; 19:4, 6, 7) Appropriately Jesus Christ counseled not to invite to an evening meal friends who can repay, but to invite persons who cannot repay. (Luke 14:12-14) Jesus himself set the example in this regard by helping spiritually those looked down upon. For this he was labeled “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Matt. 11:19) But Jesus indicated that only those obeying his commands were his real friends. He demonstrated his love for them by surrendering his soul in their behalf and encouraged them to love one another likewise.—John 15:12-14.
Interestingly, first-century Christians referred to fellow believers in general as “friends.” (3 John 14) Yet this does not rule out one’s being closer to some in the Christian congregation than to others, either because of family relationships, closer association by reason of circumstances, similar backgrounds or interests, simple compatibility of personalities, or fine Christian qualities that one has discerned by experiencing association with them. There were certain qualities in Peter, James and John that caused Jesus to associate these disciples with him in many privileges, such as having them witness the transfiguration scene. In this Jesus may have been looking to the future as to the things he had in mind for these three men, the things he knew he would use them to do in his service.—Mark 9:1-10; 14:32, 33; Luke 8:51.
While, like Jesus, the Christian manifests love toward mankind in general, rightly he accords the kind of love that goes with friendship only to those who are friends of God. The propriety of this is emphasized by the question put to faithful King Jehoshaphat: “Is it to the wicked that help is to be given, and is it for those hating Jehovah that you should have love?” (2 Chron. 19:2) Persons desiring to be friends of the world make themselves enemies of God.—Jas. 4:4.
The most outstanding human friendship recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures was that of David and Jonathan. Although Jonathan was the natural heir to the throne of his father Saul, he did not hate David and come to view him as a rival, but recognized that Jehovah’s favor was on David. So “Jonathan’s very soul became bound up with the soul of David, and Jonathan began to love him as his own soul.” (1 Sam. 18:1) After Jonathan’s death in battle, David greatly lamented the loss of his friend, saying: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.” (2 Sam. 1:26) This friendship was possible because both David and Jonathan placed loyalty to Jehovah God above everything else.
In sharp contrast, because of the moral corruption in his day, the prophet Micah was obliged to warn: “Do not put your trust in a confidential friend.” (Mic. 7:5) Jesus also indicated that even onetime friends of his followers would turn against them and have them delivered up to be put to death.—Luke 21:16; see FRIEND OF GOD; FRIEND (COMPANION) OF THE KING; LOVE.