Tuesday, December 14

Christianity and Friendship

While proponents of Same Sex Marriage often hold friendship as a model for marriage, the bond of friendship is not in itself a Christian virtue. While I personally feel that friendship is a essential part of marriage, modeling marriage on it cheats marriage. I've tried blogging on that subject, but have failed so far write my thoughts down in any coherent fashion. The very concept of idealizing marriage as friendship renders me speechless. It's just so wrong is so many ways I hardly know where to begin. At any rate, my goal here is to discuss friendship and the Christian life and not marriage.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Achilles and Patroclus, Alexander and Bucephalus (oops bad example (or at least a very bad joke)) and so on, are just some of the examples for us from early pagan secular literature celebrating the bond of friendship. The Torah contains just one friend mentioned by name, Judah and Hirah the Hittite (Gen. 38) are friends. David had friends. But rarely is friendship held up as any sort of ideal in the Bible. One's relationships and the responsibilities owed to God and one's family take precedence. On the other hand, Jesus tells us that (John 15:13) Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. But here, I would think he is telling us more out love, than friendship.

Ruth and Naomi are called friends, but there is a bond of family between the two women. While it is clear they are friends, at the stories end, marriage and family certainly take a more important role in their life. And this message is the one that the scriptural tradition is trying to tell us.

Friendship however is important. It is in fact one of the good things that make life worth living. One possible reason that friendship was important, was because the nomadic herding lifestyle was more common. As the Israelites moved into towns and cities, friendship would become more prevalent. St. Augustine in the Confessions in several books mentions how important his friends were to his life and spiritual journey. He sets aside much of his former ways when he found his faith and was baptized. He did not set aside his friends. Make no mistake, one would have to misread the Confessions aggressively to think that his friendships in any way came near to rivaling his relationship with God in his esteem.

So how is a Christian directed to view friendship? He should remember that his God and family are more important. He should be chary of friendships that tend to lead him astray. And with the injunction "to love thy neighbor", friendships should naturally arise with those we have frequent contact. Cherish those friendships, for they are a deepening form of love which we can express with our fellow travelers.