The King’s Speech won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Picture. It is the story of the future King George VI of England, who reluctantly ascended to the throne after his brother abdicated. The king had a significant struggle with a stuttering condition he had developed as a child. A successful speech therapist, Lionel Logue, helps the king overcome his problem. The king is enabled to address the nation via radio at the outbreak of war with Germany in 1939. This was a speech given in a great historical moment—thus the movie’s title.
In many ways, the film—which I can’t wholeheartedly endorse due to some strong language—is not so much about a king giving a speech as it is about an unlikely friendship that served two men and a nation. It was a friendship developed between the king and Lionel. At one point in the movie, the king and Lionel are talking, and for perhaps the first time George VI shares painful memories of his childhood. He thanks Lionel for his listening ear, and Lionel replies, “What are friends for?” The king sadly replies, “I wouldn’t know.”
I’m afraid the king’s response is one many of us would give. We have lost the gift and glory of friendship. This is due to a number of factors. We’ve traded talking for texting. We’ve abandoned fellowship for Facebook. Social media has, in reality, become anything but. The season of COVID-19 has pushed many people further away from each other, and we’ve lost our grip on the gracious blessing of friends. Men, in particular it seems, have lost the gift of friendship.
The Scriptures have a lot to say about friends and friendship. First and foremost, we are struck by Jesus’ words in John 15:15: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus calls His disciples His friends. This is powerful. This gives great weight to the entire concept of friendship. Jesus says we are His friends so that we can understand a little better what it means to be in fellowship with Him. He shares with us the truth of the kingdom. To be Jesus’ friend is to be let into the eternal relationship of love within the triune Godhead. Ultimately, we are brought into this relationship by virtue of the fact that Jesus, our King, laid down His life for His friends. He died in the place of His people on the cross to be raised again on the third day.
We are also given earthly friends. They may even be closer than our own flesh and blood. Proverbs 18:24 tells us, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Some of us have experienced pain and dysfunction in our family. God gives us friends to come alongside us and more than fill the gap. So, we ask the question, “What are friends for?” We look to the Scriptures for help, especially the Proverbs.
Friends are for the hard times. We read in Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” This is when friendship means the most. Friends come alongside to help shoulder the load. Who can forget the dramatic scene near the end of The Return of the King, the third film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Remember how Sam and Frodo were near the end of their quest to destroy the Ring of Power? Frodo collapses from exhaustion, and Sam hoists him up on his shoulders, saying, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!” That’s what friends are for. They are for the hard times to carry each other through pain, suffering, and disappointment.
Friends are for sharpening. In Proverbs 27:17, we read, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” What does such sharpening look like? It may look like correction, even rebuke. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” But notice that these wounds are “faithful”; they are offered by a friend who comes in love and genuine concern. A doctor who offers a diagnosis with designs on a cure is not indulging a critical spirit but is seeking to help and heal. Such are the wounds friends give. They help us to see our sinful blind spots. They can be used of God’s Holy Spirit to point us to needed areas of repentance.
Friends are for encouraging. Once again, Proverbs helps. We read in Proverbs 27:9, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” A friend’s words to help and to encourage are sweet to us—they are more than pleasant. Encouragement can be life sustaining and life giving, like a tall glass of ice water after a summer’s day of mowing the lawn.
God has blessed me with friends. I’m very grateful for a special group of friends I met in college. We gather once a year for a reunion weekend and have been doing this for over twenty years. We’ve gone on life’s journey together and watched each other marry, have children, raise them, watch them marry, and even seen ourselves become grandparents. It’s been a wild ride together, and we’ve shared heartache and happiness, delight, and defeat. I’m so thankful I have these friends. God gives friends and even calls us His friends. What a blessing.
In the closing scene of The King’s Speech, King George VI gives a word of encouragement to the people of England on the brink of war with Germany. Standing beside him and encouraging him through every word and syllable of the speech is Lionel Logue. Shortly after the speech, the king says to him, “Thank you, Logue . . . my friend.”
The king learned what friends are for. Likewise, we should too. Let us pursue this grand and glorious gift of friendship that the Lord gives us. Let us rejoice in our friendship with the King of kings. C.S. Lewis says it well, “Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a fire?” I think not.