Friday, March 18, 2011

Friendship, Just Friendship

I've been thinking about friendship this week. 

The precipitating cause is this: Philip Yancey (the quite well-known Christian author) is preaching at Bidwell Presbyterian this Sunday morning. But he's not bringing the word at our evening worship service, the 545. So that leaves a gap. And I need to fill that gap and preach in the evening. So I scoured the book of Philippians to find a text we hadn't used yet in our series and came across the beautiful section in chapter 2 where Paul describes his relationship with Timothy and Epaphroditus.
It's raining outside in Chico as I type.
Probably why I chose this image

The second inspiration is this: Eugene Peterson, as he led the consultation last weekend, reminded us that Jesus finished his teaching with his disciples by calling them friends in the gospel of John (chapter 15). "I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father." As Eugene puts it, that's a relational way of describing God--the God we know who exists as a relationship among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I find that an excellent reminder about God and about a truly good life.

And it's a reminder that brings me back to Philippians 2:19-30 and these two friends of Paul, who supported him as he journeyed around the ancient Roman Empire, shared the message of Jesus, and eventually got imprisoned. When you do that kind of thing, you need some friends!

Let me focus on Timothy, particularly three characteristics that make him a good friend: Paul calls him isopsychos (literally, “same soul,” “equal”), which is an echo of Psalm 55.13, “But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend….” Timothy is also one who is "anxious" for the well-being of his fellow Christians in Philippi... which they need during a particularly poignant time. (It's the same Greek word as in Philippians 4:6, so “being anxious” as a general case is not a problem--we just have to decide what we're going to be "anxious" or "concerned" about.) His conclusion about Timothy? And I love this: “But you yourselves know that Timothy’s the real thing.” Timothy is authentic--the inside and the outside match. He's the kind of friends we all love to have.

So I go back to last weekend, and the consultation with Eugene Peterson and Albert Borgmann on technology. Here's the problem technology presents: it can take us away from real human relationships. We'd rather text than talk, or check Facebook than get together, let alone define "friends" as "Facebook does. When technology enhances what we do face-to-face, that's a different story, but we are created to have friends, and I'm grieved to see a society that has become increasingly lonely and separated, sometimes because it's technologically proficient.

Because the nature of God is relational, because God has called us friends, and because we are designed to have good friends. That's one thing the God's community, the church, at its best, can offer--real relationships.

I think I'll just post this and maybe revise it later... leaving it for now as essentially some random musings...


Steven said...

...that's what I came for.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your venture into this topic. Here are a few thoughts.

Aristotle and Cicero gives us a bit of insight into this problem of friendship in Classical times, and while it seems that being "face to face" is desirable, it is not the thing of which friendships are primarily built.

Rather as Cicero wrote, "It is virtue, virtue, which both creates and preserves friendship."

Friendships should be selective. Sometimes mere proximity (while important) isn't the most important thing. These idea are echoed in the book of Proverbs and Classical Greek thought of bible times. Cicero continues:

"Nature has given us friendship as the handmaid of virtue, not as a partner in guilt...without virtue we can obtain neither friendship nor anything else desirable. In fact, if virtue be neglected, those who imagine themselves to possess friends will find out their error as soon as some grave disaster forces them to make trial of them."

Aristotle wrote:
"...friendship seems to hold cities together and lawmakers seem to take it more seriously than justice...relationships with which friendship is concerned be the same as those which are the sphere of justice. For in every partnership we find mutual rights of some sort...the proverb says ‘Friends' goods are common property,’ and this is correct, since community is the essence of friendship..." -Aristotle

The technology of writing aides in building these "bridges of friendship" based on higher virtues beyond our normal sphere..."even as through a glass darkly."

But, no doubt, the goal is to be "face to face." Full virtue is "ergonomic" (Eph. 2 & I Cor 12).

Some interesting etymology on this kind of sharing:

A "Companion" was one "with"("Con"= with) whom you'd eat bread ("Pan" = bread)

The provider of bread was call a "Loaf-ward" which contracted to become our word "Lord."

Some have the gift of "Hospitality" and are a good "host," which is also what we call the communion-bread.

So, indeed it is around such a hearth friendships are forged.

-Bill Jackson, Oroville CA

GCootsona said...

I'd certainly agree on face-to-face time and friendship. Nonetheless, spending real (not virtual) time together is necessary, even if it's not sufficient for friendship. Artistotle's great contribution is something we have forgotten: that friends must also seek the Good, which we as Christians can shorten to God. Nothing is more important.