Gianni and Maurizio have been friends for some 50 years. There was a time, however, when their friendship was in jeopardy. “During a difficult time, I made some serious mistakes that caused us to drift apart,” Maurizio explains. Gianni adds: “Maurizio was my Bible teacher when I started studying. He had become a spiritual mentor to me. So, what he did seemed unreal. It was as if my whole world were falling apart because I knew that we would go our separate ways. I felt abandoned.”
GOOD friends are precious, and a lasting friendship does not happen just by chance. If a friendship is threatened, what can help to save it? We can learn a lot from some individuals mentioned in the Bible who were real friends but whose friendship was later in danger.
WHEN A FRIEND MAKES A MISTAKE
David, the shepherd and king, certainly had good friends. Jonathan is one of those friends who may come to mind. (1 Sam. 18:1) But David had other friends, such as the prophet Nathan. The Bible does not specify when their friendship began. Yet, at one point David confided in Nathan as you might confide in a friend. David desired to build a house for Jehovah. The king must have valued Nathan’s opinion as a friend and as a man who had Jehovah’s spirit.—2 Sam. 7:2, 3.
However, something occurred that threatened their friendship. King David committed adultery with Bath-sheba, and afterward he had her husband, Uriah, killed. (2 Sam. 11:2-21) For many years, David had been loyal to Jehovah and upheld justice. But then he committed this terrible sin! What had happened to that good king? Could he not see the seriousness of his conduct? Did he think that he could hide it from God?
What would Nathan do? Would he let someone else bring up the matter to the king? Others were aware of how David had arranged to have Uriah killed. So why would Nathan get involved and risk spoiling their long-standing friendship? It could even endanger Nathan’s life if he spoke up. After all, David already had innocent Uriah killed.
But Nathan was a spokesman for God. The prophet knew that if he remained silent, his relationship with David would not be the same and his own conscience would suffer. His friend David had taken a path that had Jehovah’s disapproval. The king desperately needed help to get back on track. Yes, David needed a real friend. Nathan was such a friend. He chose to broach the subject with an illustration that could touch the heart of the former shepherd. Nathan delivered God’s message but in a way that helped David grasp the gravity of his errors and moved him to take action.—2 Sam. 12:1-14.
What would you do if you had a friend who made a significant mistake or committed a serious sin? You might be tempted to reason that pointing out his wrong would damage your friendship. Or you might feel that reporting his sinful conduct to the elders, who could help him spiritually, would be a betrayal of your friendship. What would you do?
Gianni, mentioned earlier, recalls: “I realized that something had changed. Maurizio was not as open with me as before. I decided to approach him, although it was extremely difficult for me to do so. I wondered: ‘What can I tell him that he does not already know? His reaction might be terrible!’ But remembering all that we had studied together, I found the strength to talk to him. Maurizio had done so with me when I needed help. I did not want to lose his friendship, but I wanted to help him because I cared about him.”
Maurizio adds: “Gianni was sincere—and he was right. I knew that the consequences of my bad choices were not his fault and not Jehovah’s fault. So I accepted the discipline, and in time I recovered spiritually.”
WHEN A FRIEND IS IN TROUBLE
David had other associates who loyally stood by him in difficult times. One such associate was Hushai, whom the Bible refers to as “David’s friend.” (2 Sam. 16:16; 1 Chron. 27:33) He may have been a court official who was a personal friend and companion to the king, one who at times carried out confidential orders.
When David’s son Absalom usurped the throne, many Israelites took Absalom’s side, but not Hushai. While David was fleeing, Hushai went to him. David felt deeply hurt because of being betrayed by his own son and by some whom he had trusted. However, Hushai remained loyal, as one who was willing to risk his life and accomplish a mission that would thwart the conspiracy. Hushai did not simply do so out of a sense of duty as a court official. He proved to be a loyal friend.—2 Sam. 15:13-17, 32-37; 16:15–17:16.
It is heartwarming to see how brothers and sisters today are united by a bond that goes beyond any role or assignment in the congregation. By their actions they are in effect saying, “I am your friend, not because I have to be, but because you are important to me.”
This is what a brother named Federico experienced. With the help of his dear friend Antonio, he got through a rough patch in his life. Federico relates: “When Antonio moved to our congregation, we soon became friends. We were both ministerial servants, and we enjoyed working together. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed an elder. Besides being my friend, he was a spiritual role model for me.” Then Federico took a false step. He immediately sought spiritual help, but he no longer qualified to be a pioneer or a ministerial servant. How did Antonio react?
Federico recalls: “I could see that Antonio felt my pain. He tried his best to help me emotionally. He cared deeply about my spiritual recovery and never abandoned me. He encouraged me to regain my spiritual strength and not to give up.” Antonio explains: “I spent more time with Federico. I wanted him to feel free to talk to me about anything, even about his pain.” Happily, in time Federico regained his balance and was later reappointed as a pioneer and a ministerial servant. Antonio concludes: “Although we now serve in different congregations, we are closer than ever.”
WOULD YOU FEEL BETRAYED?
How would you feel if a close friend turned his back on you when you needed him most? Few things could hurt more. Would you be able to forgive him? Would your relationship ever be as strong as it once was?
Think about what happened to Jesus during his last days on earth. He had spent much time with his faithful apostles, and they were united by a special bond. Jesus rightly called them his friends. (John 15:15) Yet, what happened when he was arrested? The apostles fled. Peter had openly declared that he would never abandon his Master, but on that very night, Peter denied knowing Jesus!—Matt. 26:31-33, 56, 69-75.
Jesus knew that he would be facing his final test alone. Still, he had reason to feel disappointed, even hurt. But his conversation with the disciples a few days after his resurrection does not reveal the slightest hint of disappointment, bitterness, or regret. Jesus did not feel the need to enumerate the disciples’ shortcomings, including what they had done on the night he was arrested.
On the contrary, Jesus reassured Peter and the other apostles. He confirmed his trust in them by giving them instructions about the most important educational work in human history. To Jesus, the apostles were still his friends. His love made a lasting impression on them. They would try their best never again to let down their Master. Indeed, they successfully carried out the task that he outlined for his followers.—Acts 1:8; Col. 1:23.
A sister named Elvira remembers vividly when she had a difference with her dear friend Giuliana: “When she told me that she was hurt because of what I had done,” Elvira recalls, “I felt awful. She had every right to be angry. But what struck me was that she was mostly concerned about me and what would result from my behavior. I will always appreciate that she didn’t focus on the wrong that I had done to her but, rather, on the damage I was doing to myself. I thanked Jehovah that I had a friend who put my welfare above her own feelings.”
Consequently, how will a good friend react when a friendship is in danger? He or she will be willing to talk kindly but openly when needed. That friend will be like Nathan and Hushai, who remained loyal even during bad times, and like Jesus, who was willing to forgive. Are you this type of friend?