Thoughts on Friendship

This weekend I will be officiating two weddings for young couples from White Fields. For pre-marital counseling, one of the resources I use is Timothy and Kathy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. One of the great takeaways from this book is that the foundation for marriage is “spiritual friendship.” On the topic of friendship, the book quotes several other authors. Here are some highlights:

Our need for friends is not weakness, it’s part of our design

Since God is triune in nature (one God in three distinct persons), creating us in His own image (“Let us create man in our image.” – Genesis 1:26), is by nature designing us for relationships. It is for this reason, that when God saw Adam alone in the garden without a companion,  God declared that “it is not good that man should be alone, therefore I will create a companion suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

What this is implying is that “our intense relational capacity, created and given to us by God, was not fulfilled completely by our ‘vertical’ relationship with him. God designed us to need ‘horizontal’ relationships with other human beings. That is why even in paradise, loneliness was a terrible thing.” (The Meaning of Marriage, 120)

The sifting hand and the breath of kindness

Two characteristics of real friendship are 1) constancy and 2) transparency.

One writer described friendship in this way:

the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away. (Craik, A Life for a Life, 169)

Oh, that there were more of this!

Seeing the same truth

C.S. Lewis, in his book, The Four Loves, writes about friendship and says that friendship happens when two people discover that they “see the same truth.”

Friendship, he points out, cannot be merely about itself. It, by nature, must be about something else, something that both people are committed to and passionate about besides one another.

“This is why,” Lewis says, “those pathetic people who simple ‘want friends’ can never make any.” Because there is nothing they want more than friends, but ironically, you cannot have friends unless you love something or see some truth that you are passionate about. “Those who have nothing can share nothing,” he points out, and concludes: “those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers.” (The Four Loves, ch. 4)

This is why the basis for Christian marriage is actually friendship: it is two people standing side by side, together with their eyes fixed on Jesus, and moving towards him. Anything less is an insufficient foundation.

Spiritual friendship, Keller concludes, is the greatest journey of all, because the horizon is so high and far, yet so sure – it is nothing less than “the day of Jesus Christ.” (The Meaning of Marriage, 127)

David and Jonathan: Man Love

Tomorrow at White Fields I will be teaching 1 Samuel 18 – which begins with David and Jonathan’s friendship. The text says that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul (18:1).

This epic friendship between Jonathan and David includes Jonathan giving up his right to the throne in order to allow David to take the place given to him by God. Later on Jonathan helps protect David from Jonathan’s father, King Saul, who is determined to kill David.

After Jonathan’s death at the end of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel begins with David’s mourning over the loss of his friend, which includes this statement: “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26).

This statement of David’s has led some to believe that David and Jonathan were more than just friends, that they were actually lovers.

The word “love” in the Greek Septuagint is the word “agape” – as opposed to “eros” (erotic, sensual love) – so it is quite clear that David is not talking about “making love” with Jonathan, but about a deep bond between these two men which was deeper, richer and more profound than any romantic relationship.

And therein is an important point that is being made in the text here: that the deepest bonds between people are not based on physical intimacy, but on sharing the same heart and desires and by being in the trenches together through hard times and good – such an important principle to keep in mind in regard to marriage as well. Marriage can’t only be built on a physical romantic relationship – it has to be built on a spiritual bond and a friendship as well. This is part of the reason why the Bible tells Christians not to be unequally yoked: because the spiritual bond, the same heart for God is an important building block for a solid marriage relationship.