A Case for The Intentional Pursuit of Friendship
“To whom am I to present my pretty new book, freshly smoothed off with dry pumice-stone! To you, Cornelius: for you used to think that my trifles were worth something, long ago, when you took courage, you alone of Italians, to set forth the whole history of the world in three volumes, learned volumes by Jupiter, and laboriously wrought. So take and keep for your own this little book such as it is, and whatever it is worth; and may it, O virgin my patroness, live and last for more than one century.” This was one of many poems written by Catullus Gaius Valerius, 84-54 BC. Catullus was a contemporary and friend of Cicero.
Catullus even wrote of his friend Cicero in one of his poems, “Most skilled in speech of the descendants of Romulus, all who are, all who have been, and all who shall be hereafter in other years Marcus Tullius – to thee his warmest thanks Catullus gives, the worst of all poets, as much as the worst poet of all as you are the best advocate of all.”
In his lines Catullus speaks of friends, lovers, and enemies at times in terms direct and even lewd terms for moderns. But of his friends, he sings their praises.
We do not often sing the praises of our friends for we as moderns have failed to grasp the wonder, depth, and gift of true friendship.
May I join the countless others before, all who have said it better, and make a case for your passionate pursuit of serving others in the spirit of friendship in my little booklet.
As you are fully aware at this point, I come with the presupposition that the God of the Bible is the creator of the universe. I did not arrive at this just because my parents told me so, but I spent years seeking, searching, and studying all the options we know for the origin and purpose of life. I found only the person of Jesus puts all of life into order and understanding. If you disagree with me in this, you can agree with me that Jesus was himself an ancient and teacher whose words were recorded for us to consider.
The Christian God is single minded, but multi-person. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in a relationship with one another, a friendship. The Father serves the Son, the Son serves the Father, the Spirit serves the Son. Jesus as a man communicates with his Father. We have record of him going off to spend time with his Father in prayer. On one of his last days on earth he cries out to his Father. The spirit follows Christ’s departure to be his representative to man, on his behalf, to communicate his teachings with mankind. The Christian God is a relational being, virtuous and serving one another.
We have relationship because God is in a relationship. Because He knows the value, beauty, and power of persons in relationships. Because he loves unity amongst diverse individuals. He has given us what He enjoys most, to be in a relationship with others. He created us to be in a relationship with Him and He created us to be in a relationship with each other. We are powerless in our need for others, because we were made to be in unity with diverse persons.
Francis Schaeffer wrote in his book, The God Who is There, “Every once in a while, in my discussions someone asks me how I can believe in the Trinity. My answer is always the same. I would still be an agnostic if there was no Trinity because there would be no answers. Without the high order of personal unity and diversity as given in the Trinity, there are no answers.”
The Bible is full of stories of deeply affectionate friendships and of the pain and grief from failed relationships. It provides examples of reconciled friendships. In its pages from over 40 writers over thousands of years, we are told God calls us friend and we are given example of his interact with man as a friend. In the way He came to Moses, stood with three rebels in a fire, and sat and cooked fish with His disciples around the campfire.
God says when we commit to a relationship with him, he calls us “friend”. In the Book of John, chapter 15 Jesus is speaking and says, “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will remain—so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.”
The ancients had discovered God’s design of friendship in that it was a relationship between virtuous individuals. God as always virtuous, and we, made virtuous through Him. He calls us to virtue, obedience, and says, “come near to me and I will come near to you.” This is the action a friend would take with another, to come close in affection, kindness, and humble admiration.
I believe God is the case for friendship. To love others the way He loves us. To sacrifice for others and to be a refuge for them in difficulty.
Yet the ancient pagans found the elements of Truth in friendship along their search of ideas. Cicero, Seneca, and Aristotle make the case of a life well lived when lived in harmony with others.
Seneca makes the case, “For what purpose, then, do I make a man my friend? In order to have someone for whom I may die, whom I may follow into exile, against whose death I may stake my own life, and pay the pledge, too.”
Is this the purpose of your friendships? Are the people in close relationship with you people you would die for, follow into exile, stake your own life for, and pay pledge too? If you do not have these friendships in your life, there could be no greater purpose than to seek them out and create them. Do we even speak out our love, our pledges, our commitments?
The shallow, purposeless, brief relationships of the twenty-first century are ripping us further apart by the week. We no longer engage in a meaningful way with those about us. We retreat behind our walls and isolate ourselves and use cold technology to state our demands, dislikes, and make our displays. We don’t engage in a way to learn what virtues might be in a person’s heart. We don’t get close enough to gain permission to speak into their lives in areas they may have it wrong, even worse, we have no one to tll us when we’ve got it wrong. We ultimately fail to meet their needs and serve them simply because of their humanity. We are so damnably busy worrying about our wants, needs, opinion, and being right, we have little awareness or want for others. Or we have filled the schedule so we don’t have time to invest in others, to sit and listen with intent, to experience life with several close friends.
Worse, we busy ourselves with relationships which entertain us, or gain us access or opportunity with little concern for the welfare or wellbeing of the other. We have an endless list of work relationships with no depth and little chance of extended past the life of the job.