“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” (Prov. 17:17)
This verse used to confuse me. A friend will always love us, but our brothers will be our adversaries, so I thought. Solomon did not say that. What he did say was (a) a friend always loves, and (b) a brother will be support you when you face adversity.
We need to understand what the word loves means. In modern Western culture, love and the heart have been connected: they both are about emotions. That presumption is not rooted in the biblical concept of love and the heart. Neither the heart nor love are emotion-based in Scripture. Love should be understood as unfailing loyalty, commitment, and faithfulness. The heart is one’s deepest, innermost being.
A friend is defined, then, as the kind of person who is always faithful and loyal. Friendship of that sort is difficult in the extreme. A real friend is committed to another to the extent he himself might suffer loss because of his oath of friendship (Psa. 15:4; Phil. 2:8). Friendship based on emotion is not costly at all. Feeling good about someone requires no effort all. The problem arises when someone we call friend does something we don’t like, and we stop feeling good about them.
Friendship on those terms is based on the actions of others and not our loyalty to them. Feeling good about another person is self-centered. Jesus, though, showed friendship to be rooted in one’s self, and not in the behavior of others. The psalmist declared true friendship was characterized by one person’s commitment to another regardless of the cost. Personal loss does not bring friendship to an end. Jesus gave up his divine rights and privileges, and his life, for the benefit of unbelievers. True friendship is costly.
What about a brother? Solomon assumed a brother is committed to his family. As a result, when he is needed, he gives what is required and does what is necessary to come to the aid of a family member in distress. A brother loves at all times too.
Real love doesn’t feel good all the time. Paul said love never fails. בְּכָל־֭עֵת אֹהֵ֣ב הָרֵ֑עַ וְאָ֥ח לְ֝צָרָ֗ה יִוָּלֵֽד׃