What does the Bible say about friendship? A great deal. Below are some Bible verses that discuss the topic or are relevant to it. They’re organized according to some themes you may find helpful.
Living in community
We were created to live in community. The Lord himself lives in community—the eternal intra-Trinitarian “friendship.”
The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (John 5:20)1
We were created in God’s image, and there are therefore some similarities between the way the Persons of the Trinity relate and the way we relate.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen 1:26a)
Even more astonishing, we were created to be in relationship with the Lord. The communal Lord of the universe always wanted to form a community with us.
Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)
Beyond that, we were created to have friendships with one another. It was not good that Adam was alone, and so God created a community for him.
It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. (Gen 2:18)
This community began with a helper who was, of course, Adam’s wife, Eve. Adam and Eve were the first human friends. From them came all future human friends.
Friendship with God
Our human friends are not our most important friends. Our most important friendship is our friendship with the Lord. It’s amazing but true that the Bible would use this word to describe our relationship with God.
Throughout Scripture there are examples of others in friendship with the Lord.
But you, Israel, My servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen,
Descendant of Abraham My friend. (Isa 41:8)
Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. (Exod 33:11a)
Jesus called his disciples his friends.
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. (Luke 12:4)
Most remarkably, Jesus calls us his friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:14–15)
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant. (Ps 25:14)
To obey him is to love him. To love him is to be his friend. There is no more important relationship for the believer. Cultivating our friendship with the Lord is to be the reason we wake in the morning, but we are not to live out that relationship isolated from others.
The second greatest commandment
After loving Jesus, the second greatest commandment is to love our “neighbors,” those with whom he has put us in community—our friends, believers or not.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:37–39; see also Mark 12:30–31)
Love one another
We are to love everyone who bears God’s image, but there is a distinct bond between believers in Christ. It is important that we keep and cultivate our Christian community. Our relationship with God and our relationships with other believers should go hand in hand. Our true Christian friendships—our friendships with other believers—should be focused on encouraging one another in our individual friendships with the Lord.
If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24)
Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. (Eph 5:19)
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Prov 27:17)
Christians need each other. The Lord makes it clear in Scripture that true Christian friendship is a priority. So what does that kind of friendship look like? The Scriptures don’t answer that question explicitly; the Bible doesn’t define “friendship.” But the Lord does tell us in his Word how to treat “one another”—that is, our fellow believers.
With Christ at the center of our true Christian friendships, we can apply any verses directed towards “one another” to our friendships with other believers.
The Lord’s commands to us, when it comes to how to treat our friends, can largely be thought of as stemming from his command to us to love one another.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom 13:8)
We are only able to love our friends—to love one another—because of the love and sacrifice of Christ.
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7–11)
There are beautiful examples of human friendships in Scripture; friendships that recognize their common bond; friendships in which the members make their relationship about loving one another rather than selfishly about themselves and what they can gain.
David and Jonathan:
As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. (1 Sam 18:1)
Paul to Timothy:
For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. (2 Tim 1:4; see also 2 Cor 2:4)
What a joy to be in this kind of fellowship!
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Ps 133:1)
How do we love like this? How do we love one another—our community—our true Christian friends? Throughout all of Scripture, from the Old Testament to the New, the Lord tells us exactly what loving one another should look like.
We start with a pure heart.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart. (1 Pet 1:22)
We love by thinking of—regarding—our friends as who they are in Christ. We expect righteousness. We expect holiness as they grow to be more like Jesus. We do not expect or assume their sin.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:16–17)
We love our friends by using our God-given gifts.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Pet 4:10)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal 5:13)
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor 12:7)
We love by humbly considering our friends to be more important than ourselves.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil 2:3–4)
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matt 7:12)
We love our friends by submitting to one another.
Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph 5:21)
We love our friends by showing them honor.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom 12:10)
We love our friends by showing hospitality.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Pet 4:9)
We love by bearing our friends’ burdens.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Prov 17:17)
Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away. (Prov 27:10)
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. (Eph. 4:2)
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Rom 12:15)
We love by comforting our friends, as God has comforted us.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor 1:3–4)
We love by building up and strengthening our friends.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph 4:29)
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Eccl 4:12)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Eccl 4:9–10)
We love our friends by instructing and counseling them.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col 3:16)
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Eph 4:25)
Older women … are to teach what is good. (Tit 2:3b)
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Prov 11:14)
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed. (Prov 15:22)
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. (Prov 27:9)
Despite our best efforts to love in all these ways, we are still sinners—and so are our friends. Friendship can get messy. We sin against friends, friends sin against us, our friends sin against one another, and we all sin against the Lord. Hurtful, thoughtless comments go unconfronted and therefore unforgiven; bitterness seeps in; walls slowly get erected; doors slowly close. We cut off our friends and isolate ourselves—and then a year has gone by and we wake up to realize that a given friendship has practically ceased. True Christian friendship is marked by loving confrontation, forgiveness, and restoration.
So we love by confronting our friends in humility when they sin and helping restore their relationship with both God and one another.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb 3:12–13)
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Gal 6:1)
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (1 Thess 5:14–15)
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Prov 27:5–6)
Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue. (Prov 28:23)
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matt 5:23–24)
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matt 18:15)
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt 7:3–5)
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. (Luke 17:3)
After confronting one another’s sin, we commit to love fervently: consistently and consciously and continually confessing our sin, choosing to forgive, and forbearing with our friends.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (Jas 5:16)
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matt 18:21–22)
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph 4:31–32)
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Pet 4:8)
Friendship with unbelievers
We are not only in friendships with one another, though. We are not only to “love one another” within the Christian community, the church.
Jesus is our example of establishing loving friendships with unbelievers.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds. (Matt 11:19)
Likewise, we are called to love unbelievers.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. (Luke 6:32–33)
Above all else, we are to evangelize our lost friends.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19–20)
However, we must choose our friends—especially our unbelieving friends—carefully.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Cor 6:14)
Bad company ruins good morals. (1 Cor 15:33)
One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Prov 12:26)
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Prov 13:20)
Friendship with unbelievers isn’t the only relationship snare we might encounter. Scripture warns us against the following friendship pitfalls.
We must not value popularity over quality of friendship.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Prov 18:24)
We must not withhold kindness from our friends.
He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. (Job 6:14)
We must not isolate ourselves.
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Prov 18:1)
We must not judge or gossip about our friends.
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (Jas 4:11–12)
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Prov 17:9)
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. (Prov 11:13)
A whisperer separates close friends. (Prov 16:28b)
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor (Prov 11:9a)
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. (Prov 20:19)
We must not show hatred.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Gal 5:15)
We must not be friends with those consumed by wrath.
Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. (Prov 22:24–25)
Put on humility
Cultivating friendships takes compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and forgiveness. But above all these, it takes love. It takes loving fervently from a pure heart—because Christ first loved us.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Col 3:12–15)