Question: "What does the Bible say about friendliness?"
Answer: The Bible encourages us to be kind and loving to one another and to go out of our way to minister to others—the good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable was kind to a total stranger, whom Jesus called a “neighbor” (Luke 10:29–37). However, as with everything, we should use discernment when being friendly and outgoing.
We are all uniquely crafted and given personalities that God can use for specific purposes (Psalm 139). Some people, like the apostle Peter, are naturally more outgoing than others, and some have more difficulty meeting new people. God can both types of people. During the initial lockdown of the 2020 pandemic, the introverts took quarantine more in stride than the extroverts, who had a tougher time. But both the introverts and extroverts grew in different ways during that time. No personality type is “wrong,” but there are some guidelines we should all follow.
In the Bible, God repeatedly calls us to love one another (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 3:12). We are even called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), and Christ’s second greatest command was to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Our “neighbor” is anyone with whom we share life, proximity, or even the planet. Through our love for one another, many can see the love of God.
We know that love is paramount, but it can take many forms. Being friendly and outgoing is one of those forms. We are also called to reach the furthest corners of the world with the gospel of Christ—Jesus wants us to be “outgoing” in a literal sense (Matthew 28:19). Also, believers are encouraged to gather and fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). Having friends is assumed in Scripture (Exodus 33:11; Job 2:11; Proverbs 17:17; 27:6, 10), and the existence of friends requires some level of friendliness.
Those who are in Christ will bear spiritual fruit, which results in traits associated with being friendly or outgoing: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23, NKJV). All of this fruit affects relationships, and most of it is meant to be shared with others. Kindness is not really kindness unless someone else benefits from it. It’s true that joy can exist privately within one’s heart, but it’s also true that joy usually effervesces into a more public display.
So, a basic principle of Scripture is that, to some degree, we are to be friendly and outgoing, no matter our personality type. There are also some cautions in Scripture about personal relationships.
The Bible warns about the wrong types of friends, and such counsel suggests that it’s possible to be too friendly with some people. We are not to be on close or affectionate terms with a hot-tempered person, for example (Proverbs 22:24–25). And Proverbs 1:10–19 and 4:14–19 warn against those who entice us to do wrong. We should not associate with evildoers, no matter how great the promised reward or how appealing their “friendship” seems to be. Those whose “feet rush to sin” are headed in the wrong direction and should be avoided. The path they choose is no place for a Christian whose choice should be to follow the “path of the righteous.” Only that path leads to friendship with God—and we definitely want to be on friendly terms with Him (see James 4:4).
Friends should be chosen carefully. “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Paul warns against ill-advised fellowship: “Do not be unequally yoked”; that is, avoid extended or deep partnership with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Also, we cannot eat both at the Lord’s table and at the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:21). These cautions do not give us permission to be unloving or to retreat within ourselves. But we should not allow undue toxic influences in our lives.
Friendliness, as it relates to kindness, is always appropriate, but how do we know when we should really open up and interact with others and when we should be more reserved? The answer depends on individual circumstances. There are times when we should avoid a relationship, a conversation, or an event. Personal safety is one consideration, and spiritual safety is another: we should certainly never sin with others. But there are also times when reaching out and being outgoing is necessary, even in difficult situations. We should always be ready to speak openly about our faith in any company (Colossians 4:6). The key is to seek God’s wisdom in each specific instance (see James 1:5).
In the final analysis, we should always maintain a friendly, loving attitude of kindness and grace toward others. A friendly stranger can change the trajectory of a person’s life. The gospel is meant to be shared. However, we also need to guard our hearts and be careful of where or with whom we are in fellowship. There can be serious consequences for following our natural inclinations, getting caught up in the moment, or interacting with the wrong crowd. No matter our personality, it is important to seek God’s guidance at all times.