Written by:
Charli Chitambo

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Shamwari

When I was in primary (elementary) school, and in the third grade I remember we had a lesson in Social Studies/Religious and Moral Education on what a friend is. I still remember this lesson because in almost every grade that followed, chances were high that a paper would ask the question, “What is a friend?” My response would always be what I said in third grade: “A friend in need, is a friend indeed.” This was the definition that was written in the text books, what my teacher had told me, and what all of my peers and classmates were using. Because of this fact, I never doubted or questioned what that statement meant or stood for.

However, as I got older, I began to question what the statement “A friend in need is a friend indeed” means. One of the questions that came to my mind was what if someone does not need anything- then does that mean they cannot be any one’s friend? But then I realized that, everyone , everywhere regardless of social status, gender, race, age or anything that society set up to differentiate and classify each individual, does need something. That thing does not have to be a material thing – it is amazing how a kind smile, a hug, an offer of a listening ear can impact and influence one’s life. That is what it means to be a friend.

It is amazing how a kind smile, a hug, an offer of a listening ear can impact and influence one’s life. That is what it means to be a friend.

Shona is one of the languages that is spoken in Zimbawe. The Shona word for “friend,” singular and plural, is “shamwari.” The Shona word for God is “Mwari,” one syllable short of “shamwari.” I do not know how the words were formed by my ancestors, but looking at the words now, I definitely see a link. Friendship is indeed important, even perhaps divine.

I found several scripture verses that speak to the importance of friendship. Ecclesiastics 4:9-10 (NIV) states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” This verse is a rich summary of what a friendship is, a clear demonstration of how important is to have a friend, as well as being a friend.

I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” - John 12:15 (NIV)

Jesus’ words also speak to the importance of friendship. In John 15:12-15 (NIV) he says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” This passage assures us that no matter what, we always have a friend in Jesus.

Question: What does friendship mean to you? How have you experienced having a friend of in Jesus?