A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
The two most eminent philosophers of pagan antiquity saw in friendship little more than a calculation of benefits which it might be supposed to confer, and scarcely recognised at all the possibility of its possessing a disinterested character. Plutarch affirmed that in his time friendship did not exist any longer even in families; that it had once existed in the heroic ages, but was now confined to the stage. The moral condition of a nation must have become corrupt below the point of recovery, when so Godlike a relation as that of friendship can be so discountenanced, depreciated, and suspected. It is not Christianity which has created friendship, but Christianity has lifted it up and transfigured it. Even in our common life we meet with friends who are better to us than even our relations; but certainly the text does emphatically describe the character of One who is pre-eminently the Friend of man, the Friend of sinners, and the Friend of saints. The history of brothers, as exemplified in the Scriptures, is somewhat disheartening. (Illustrate by Cain and Abel; Jacob and Esau; and Joseph's brethren.) Still, few things are more common than implacable feuds between brethren. There are jealousies of brotherhood.
I. THE LOVE OF OUR BEST FRIEND IS DISINTERESTED. All love, according to some, is a thing of interest. But there certainly is friendship which loves, not for what one can get out of the other, but which loves the other for his own sake. There are friends who live in each other. And surely we may say that the love of Jesus is a disinterested one. He left the world in which lie is, and was, God over all, not to seek His own happiness, but ours. His friendship for us would have been noble and disinterested had His mission involved in it no humiliation and no suffering. Whatever God does for man must be spontaneous and disinterested, springing from a will which nothing can coerce, and from a benevolence which finds its highest joy in the holiness and happiness of those whom it seeks to bless. The recompense which Christ sought was not His own exaltation, but the joy of seeing others rescued, redeemed, purified, glorified.
II. IT IS AN INTELLIGENT FRIENDSHIP. It is based on knowledge, a complete knowledge of us. The foundation of many friendships is not the rock of knowledge, but the sand of ignorance. They are the creations of a mere impulse, the result of a casual meeting in circumstances which revealed neither friend in his real character. But Christ does not throw around us a glamour of fancy in which we seem better than we are. He knows what is in man. He knows the worst of us. It is a friendship in which there is every conceivable disparity, and yet He sticketh closer than a brother.
III. THE FRIENDSHIP OF CHRIST IS MARKED BY ITS FIDELITY. And what is a friendship worth that does not possess this property? If friendship has its pleasures, it has also its obligations, which must be fulfilled if friendship is not to degenerate into a soft and contemptible acquaintanceship without nobleness or true advantage. The only bond of certain friends seems to be one of mutual flattery. To love one's friend means far more than to love his comfort and self-complaisance. To tell men of their faults is the luxury of enemies but the duty of friends. Now, the friendship of Christ is one which never neglects this essential duty. Many of the deepest and most sorrowful mysteries of your life may some day be explained by a single word — the faithfulness of Christ.
IV. HIS FRIENDSHIP IS MARKED BY ITS CONSTANCY. Few friendships have sufficient vitality in them to extend from youth to old age. Many friendships are but summer friendships. The friendship of Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. He does not break off from us because we are not all we should be to Him. There is a limit to all our earthly friendships, a limit to their power, a limit to their help. If we need friendship on this side of the grave, how much more shall we need it on the other side. So we say, "Seek not friends that die, or whom you must leave, but seek for One who never dies, and whom you can never leave."
(Enoch Mellor,D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.