What does it mean to be “Friendly?” Have you ever met an animal and described it as “a friendly cat?” or “a friendly dog?” Why did you give it that label? Was it because the animal went out of its way to give you an enthusiastic greeting? Or perhaps it showed its own happiness to see you? Do you describe a person who stands far away from the “crowd” and refuses to engage in conversation as “friendly”? What word(s) might you use to describe the opposite of “friendly”?
Dictionaries commonly define “friendly” by describing it:
“Of, relating to, or befitting a friend; favorably disposed – not antagonistic; warm; comforting; showing kindly interest and goodwill; serving a beneficial or helpful purpose; inclined to help or support”
These thoughts and expressions describe the situation where friendliness has occurred, but can we narrow it down more tightly?
The Boy Scout Handbook offers this guidance;
“A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.”
The handbook introduces a couple of key thoughts — a Scout’s friendship isn’t limited to certain people, he should treat other Scouts as brothers, and that the scout is not empowered to withhold his friendship because a stranger is odd (different from what he’s used to).
How are we called to be friendly as Christians? [note: you don’t have to be “Christian” to be a Scout; however, the Chartering Organization and scouting families, at our troop, hold similar faith beliefs; therefore, we offer additional insights from the Bible during our devotionals]. The bible offers these statements (NIV):
- Proverbs 16:28 – A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. (How can we lose our friends?)
- Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
- Proverbs 18:24 – One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Friends are loyal and look out for each other’s best interests)
- James 2:23 – And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. (Abraham was called God’s friend because he….)
- James 4:4 – You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (The opposite of friendship is…..)
- John 15:12-17 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
If Jesus coupled the words friend and love so closely together in the gospel of John, what would 1 Cor. 13: 1-7 sound like if we, momentarily, substituted the word “friendship” for the word “love”?
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have [friendship], I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have [friendship], I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have [friendship], I gain nothing. [Friendship] is patient, [friendship] is kind. [Friendship] does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. [Friendship] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.“
My intent isn’t to re-write scripture; however, the experiment serves to help us focus on how friendship is an expression of love towards others.
It is no coincidence that many of the points of the Scout Law overlap slightly: courteous, kind, cheerful, loyal, helpful, and friendly each speak to loving others and being willing to give of their time in service to others.
As with each of the points of the Scout Law, we must strive to be consistent in our application. To be truly called “friendly” our behavior should be reasonably predictable, and outgoing (social). While everyone struggles, to some degree with bashfulness, especially as they grow up, we will more often be called “friendly” when we develop relationships through appropriate social contact.