Companions or friends?

Two men were traveling together, when a Bear confronted them. One of them quickly climbed a tree. The other, seeing that he must be attacked, fell flat on the ground, and when the Bear came up and felt him with his snout, and smelt him all over, he held his breath, and feigned the appearance of death as much as he could. The Bear soon left him, for it is said he will not touch a dead body. When he was quite gone, the other Traveler descended from the tree, and jocularly inquired of his friend what it was the Bear had whispered in his ear. “He gave me this advice,” his companion replied. “Never travel with a friend who deserts you at the approach of danger.”

The Book of Sirach says , “For there are friends who are such when it suits them, but they will not stand by you in time of trouble. And there are friends who change into enemies, and tell of the quarrel to your disgrace. And there are friends who sit at your table, but they will not stand by you in time of trouble. When you are prosperous, they become your second self, and lord it over your servants; but if you are brought low, they turn against you, and hide themselves from you” (Sirach 6:5-17)

Jesus had immense value for friendships and believed that friendships should remain even at the point of death, he said “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his 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” (John 15:13-15). In the Old Testament, we have the shining example of friendship between David and Saul’s son Jonathan, who, in spite of his father Saul’s pursuit of David and attempts to kill him, stood by his friend. (I Samuel 18).

We all need friends.  But very often we are not able to distinguish between friends and companions. True friends are like stars.  You can see them in the darkest nights. In the story of the prodigal son, the boy who took his share of the property and left his father and his home, ended up circled by wine, women and song.  There were companions around him, not friends.

During his darkest moments, when his pockets were empty there was no one around him, he ended up feeding pigs in the piggery.  “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

If you don’t have a true friend, seek God’s help to find one. Don’t forsake a true friend.