Friends are one the great treasures of life. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times,” which points to the value of good friends. This doesn’t mean, however, that all our friendships are going to be the same. Some bonds endure for a lifetime, while others last for a season. The length of a friendship doesn’t automatically determine its value as some short-term friendships end up being extremely significant.
Friends On A Mission
One of the most powerful friendships in the New Testament was between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas introduced Paul to the apostles and helped alleviate their fears about embracing the change in his life (Acts 9:27). I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Paul would never have been accepted into the circle of the apostles without his friendship with Barnabas. Together they launched the first missionary journey and proved to be one of history’s most proficient church-planting teams (Acts 13). They were on this journey for a little over two years, and were able to begin over a dozen congregations in that time. They were successful, secure with one another and celebrated for their work. In other words, their friendship was strong, and together they made life better for thousands. If you knew them at that time, you would assume they were friends for life.
When it came time to take a second missionary journey, the two friends met to put together their team. Barnabas suggested they take John Mark. Paul bristled at the thought because their colleague had quit halfway through the first journey. Barnabas still saw potential in the young man, while Paul saw only an unreliable asset. Despite the friendship, the two “had such a sharp disagreement” about taking John Mark that they decided they would be more effective pursuing their own goals (Acts 15:38). Paul ventured out on two more missionary journeys while Barnabas returned to local church ministry. One of his projects was to rebuild John Mark. I am pretty sure Paul thought Barnabas was wasting his time investing in someone who had already proved to be unreliable. Barnabas, however, knew in his heart there was more to John Mark than his hard-driving friend could see.
The question is often asked, “Who was right, Paul or Barnabas?”
I think it is correct to say they both were. Paul and Silas extended the success of the church-planting mandate of the church, bringing hope to thousands and stability to existing congregations. Barnabas’ investment in John Mark eventually helped him become the author of the book of Mark, which has impacted every generation since.
Valuing Short-Term Friends
Barnabas and Paul’s friendship is a great example of how short-term friends can bring out the best in us, despite the sadness and disappointment that often arises when a great friendship ends up being short-lived. We can make the most of short-term friendships by intentionally taking the following steps:
- Enthusiastically spend time with people who share your convictions, purpose and goals.
- Work on projects together when it is obvious to those around you that you would be a good team.
- Rejoice over the way other people’s lives are enhanced by your friendship.
- Release one another when life circumstances make it obvious God is leading you in different directions.
- Thank God any time you hear about the other’s accomplishments.
All of us who know Jesus are going to spend eternity together as close, long-term friends. On Earth, however, some of our best friendships will be extremely valuable yet temporary adventures.
You may also be interested in Why Hard Work For A Cause Is A Great Way To Make Friends