Degrees of Friendship

Eliza HuieBy Eliza Huie6 Minutes

Excerpt taken from The Whole Life: 52 Weeks of Biblical Self-Care by Eliza Huie & Esther Smith


Friendship halves our troubles and doubles our joys.
J. C. Ryle

Friendships are not created equal. Some friendships take more work than others. Some are forged through common interest; others are formed due to a shared task or responsibility; and some friendships are made unexpectedly in a more organic or providential way. You might have friends who feel closer than your own family. Other friends you may only talk to once a year at best, but despite the infrequent communication, you remain friends.

One common misunderstanding in Christian circles is that friendships, specifically with other believers, should all be marked by significant depth and closeness. It is not wrong to be closer with some people than you are with others. While all friendships don’t need to have the same degree of depth, they all take intentionality and a willingness to be known.

Jesus himself showed us this. He was a “friend of sinners” and known by a wide variety of people with whom he shared meals and conversation. He also had closer friends like Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. In addition, he had the twelve disciples with whom he chose to engage in more intentional friendship and ministry. Out of the twelve, he had three—Peter, James, and John—he was even closer to. With those three, he went deeper, sharing unique moments and conversations not experienced with the other disciples. Of those three he had one who was closer still: John. John is described in Scripture as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He was the one who laid on Jesus’s breast at the last supper (John 13:23). All of these friendships were tied to the human need of companionship. We were made to be in community.

Jesus did not love John more than the other disciples even though he did share a closer friendship with him. This was not sinful exclusion; it was a naturally formed closeness. Not forced. Not obliged. But shared by only them.

Do believers have to be close friends with someone just because they are in the same Christian circles? Does the fact that we are all followers of Christ mean we must all be best friends? These questions can cause Christians undo stress and frustration. Instead we should consider how to make more natural connections with one another. In some cases, we may need to be more willing to be known; in other situations we can rest in the fact that a casual but genuine friendship is sufficient. Let the friendships of Jesus teach us that this variation is a natural part of life.

Don’t exhaust yourself trying to be the closest of friends with all believers. Instead, be willing to engage, be vulnerable, and embrace the blessing and joy of varying levels of friendships.

Gospel Spotlight

As a Christian you are a friend of God. Jesus calls you friend. And this friendship is intimate and everlasting.

Action and Application

Spiritual: Using Jesus’s own life as an example, prayerfully evaluate the friendships God has given you. Spend time praying for and thanking God for the varying degrees of friendships that are gifts of companionship to your soul.

Emotional: Do you tend to share your deepest feelings with all your friends? Or do you tend to be overly guarded with your emotions? Healthy vulnerability will mean you make careful choices on how much to share and with whom. Wisely consider which of your friends should know more or less about your feelings. Friends who have proven trustworthy with small areas of vulnerability will likely be faithful with more.

Physical: Physical presence strengthens friendships. You catch more nonverbal communication when you are with someone. Plan some face-to-face time with a friend this week. Notice how being together in person strengthens your relationship.

Relational: Do you have a “John” in your life? Take some time this week to reach out to that friend and thank this person for the close friendship.

Guided Journaling

Consider how your own friendships vary in depth of closeness. List out the names of your friends. Include relationships that are casual acquaintances, closer companions, as well as those who are your dearest friends. As you reflect on this list, what does it reveal about your friendships? Journal your thoughts.

Excerpted from The Whole Life: 52 Weeks of Biblical Self-Care © 2021 by Eliza Huie and Esther Smith. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.