— Losing a couple of hours of sleep to just chill with a friend who doesn’t want to be alone/needs to vent/chat.
— Spending a little extra time in prayer praying for a friend, his or her projects, problems, victories and hopes.
— Taking the long way to class so you can walk an extra block with a friend, of course having to run the three blocks after dropping off the friend so you can make it to class on time.
— Driving a friend home/to the airport/to the store who needs a ride that is out of your way.
I list these items as benefits and I do so purposely. Yesterday’s Gospel reading was John 3:16-21 which starts out with the well-known “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
To be a friend is to love that person. As Christians, we are called to a higher love than eros- passionate desire for the other. We are called to a higher love than philia- fondness and appreciation for the other. We are called to agape- the paternal love of God for man and of man for God. We extend this love to the entire human brotherhood- for that is what we all are- brothers and sisters. We are called to love others, even those who we do not know or strongly dislike, with the same love that God has for us.
So, let’s go past having agape for those we do not know, we do not like or are simply indifferent about. A friendship, and the love between friends, usually includes philia by definition. A friend should be fond and appreciate that other. Some friendships include elements of eros- whether it be strong sexual desire or simply a more emotional-based attraction, built on circumstances and situation. A friendship, and espcially a Christian friendship, should be built upon agape- an unconditional love for that person. When you agapeo (verb form of agape) someone, you love that person based on your commitment to that person, to that friendship.
And so, when I list the items above as benefits of a friendship. I do so with purpose. Not only should we stretch towards the extra mile with our eros/philia friends- the friends with whom we are on cloud nine, but we should stretch for our agape-only friends- namely the friends we have no warm fuzzy feelings for, the friends we avoid, the friends we “stopped caring” about. In a society of people who claim to not need anyone for their survival, it is truly a benefit to be able to be a friend to someone. In a society of people who believe friends come and go, realizing that the day-to-day interactions may pass away and the secondary results of agape have faded and then realizing that a friendship never pases away, it is a benefit to see that light. To exist with that level of unity between two persons simply can not be anything but a benefit.
Love is not built on warm fuzzy feelings just as friendship is not built upon only enjoying the good moments. Friendships- real friendships- thrive not only in the moments of joy and delectation but in the moments of sorrow, despair, need, privation and anguish. It’s not an easy road all the time but it is the right one.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Cor 13:7
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