I’ve been thinking a great deal about friendship lately – thinking about it and writing about it. In fact, my latest book, The Art of Friendship was just released last week. It came out just at a time when I was personally being challenged to be the faithful friend who sticks through thick and thin – a bosom friend, as Anne, from the classic book Anne of Green Gables, would say.
Anne is an enchanting and quirky orphan who ends up the ward of two elderly unmarried siblings. While it is a coming-of-age story, it is also an exploration of the life-giving power of friendship. We get a hint this will be its theme from an early scene, when Anne, still in an orphanage, is so desperate to be known and loved that she befriends her own reflection in the window.
What she really wants, more than anything in the world, is a bosom friend. She explains it this way: “A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my innermost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life.”
Those words resonate in human hearts made in God’s image. We crave that kind of intimate connection. We don’t all articulate it as well as Anne, but when we discover it, we know that is what we wanted all along. Anne found the connection her soul was longing for in Diana, a young classmate who was steady as a rock but was often outshined by Anne. Finally seeing an end to her loneliness she dares to ask, “Will you swear to be my friend forever and ever?”
And with that they proclaim their eternal loyalty, one after the other, declaring, “I solemnly swear to be faithful to my bosom friend…as long as the sun and moon shall endure.”
So began the start of a beautiful friendship, but it was just the start. Anne and Diana would face all the challenges of life and young adulthood together building on something significant, their oath. So many wonderful aspects of true friendship are brought to life in that book, not the least of which is covenant friendship. “Will you swear to be my friend forever and ever?”
A covenant is more than just a contract. It’s a pledge that you make (and here is the kicker) that remains in effect even if one of the parties breaks it. It is actually the kind of friendship that we find in the Bible. Covenant-friendship is what God enters into with us—an unbreakable pledge He will keep no matter what. Paul described it this way, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
If God were to break His pledge of friendship to us, one He sealed at the cross, that would be tantamount to denying Himself. He cannot deny Himself, and so we have this confidence: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
When we commit to biblically-patterned friendship, like Anne, and more so like Jesus, we are not just making an agreement to be nice to someone as long as they are nice to us. Or to meet each other’s needs as long as we find it convenient. We are entering into a covenant that unites us and calls us to be faithful helpers to the very end. To do less would actually mean to deny ourselves. May God find me (and you) faithful to each of the friends He has brought our way.