Some of you may think this a preposterous question. Jesus had 12 disciples with him. Beyond these close confreres, Jesus also had personal friends like Lazarus, Mary and Martha.1

Perhaps I never really thought of Jesus having friends.

Since young, I have hummed the hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear…” Jesus is our go-to friend in times of trouble but suddenly realizing that Jesus himself had close friends whom he could perhaps just relax with was nothing short of a ‘human’ revelation for me.

As my thoughts started to unravel, then came another realization. God already knew from the very beginning that we needed a friend. Didn’t He?

“It is not good for man to be alone;
I will give him a helper who will be like him.”
~ Genesis 2:18

Then God made Eve, the first friend to man. Although this first friendship was led astray (you know what I mean), I believe God does want us to have friends, to live in community and be in community with others. Aren’t we One Body in Christ?

“So then, putting away falsehood,
let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours,
for we are members of one another.”
~ Ephesians 4:25


Who are your friends?

Some of us are particular when it comes to defining who a friend is. “He is just a boy I know. He is not my boyfriend”. Or “She is not a friend, she is a colleague.” Who are your friends?

Recent surveys reveal that men and women have less friends today than ever before. Bishop Robert Barron on the topic of “Why We Need Close Friends”2, referred to Greek philosopher Aristotle’s book on Nicomachean Ethics where three kinds of friends are described:

The first is friendship based on utility, where both people derive some benefit from each other. The second is friendship based on pleasure, where both people are drawn to the other’s wit, good looks, or other pleasant qualities. The third is friendship based on goodness, where both people admire the other’s goodness and help one another strive for goodness.

It is important for us to cultivate different levels and groups of friends to sustain our strength in life. We need friends to listen to us, to feel with us and to journey with us. We will not fall into depression in times of trials and sufferings if we have good friends and colleagues to support us. 1

And Bishop Barron feels true friendship needs time and presence.2 “You need to work at it. Get off social media. Go out and meet people.” There are bonding opportunities if you seek people who share the values you do, or even those who challenge you and energise your conversations.

“Iron sharpens iron,
and one person sharpens the wits of another.”
~ Proverbs 27:17

I lost a friend to pancreatic cancer a few years ago. She refused additional surgery, chemotherapy or radiation when her cancer returned after a year or so. She was a divorcee in her 50s and felt there was no need to go on with life since she did not have many close friends, and her daughter had grown up to be a fine young lady with a good job. Why waste money in trying to prolong life as death was inevitable? In the end, she closed her door to the world around her.

During the pandemic, many of us closed our doors to the world too. Now is the time to think of renewing contacts and friendships that have fallen by the wayside. The degree of appreciation from surprise check-ins with friends is often underestimated. Such check-ins are powerful as many are facing some form of loneliness crisis.3

So I decided recently to muster some courage to ask old friends out for brunch or tea, be it once a week or once a fortnight. I must say, it is not easy.  The excuses I came up with stemmed from internal hiccups in my system called fear and procrastination. There is some trepidation too as initiating an unexpected check-in with friends may not be welcomed. I can imagine them thinking — “Why is she calling? Does she need a favour from me?” Psychologists call this worry the ‘beautiful mess effect’ where opening up yourself to others may lead them to judge you.3

Nevertheless, the selfless quality of Aristotle’s third kind of friendship is most appealing to me – a friendship that helps one another strive for goodness, where we want others to feel better and be better people. These are the kind of friends I thank God for giving me. Good friends are truly God’s gift to us. Friends who help to open my eyes to the truth and to their needs as well. Friends who listen and do not judge.


Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Some say that a friend is like a second self, a mirror or reflection of ourselves. But more importantly as Christians, we should mirror Jesus to others.

“My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression,
you who have received the Spirit should restore
such a one in a spirit of gentleness.”
~ Galatians 6:1

And the Scriptures teaches us many things about friendships. Remember how Job prayed for his friends and was rewarded or how we see the speck in our neighbour’s eyes but do not see the log in our own.

To realise that Jesus sought out friends to relax and dine with gives me comfort, for the Lord truly understands no man is an island. And the more we read His Word and try to understand His goodness and graces for us, the more like Him we will become.


Written by Karen R-Fong



(1) – Scripture Reflection, 17 July 2022

(2) Bishop Robert Barron – Word of Fire “Why We Need Close Friends”

(3) Text your friends – it matters more than you think, The Straits Times, 2 Aug 2022