Friendship may seem like an easy virtue to attain when one is bursting with the happy energy of a carefree youth. But it is this apparent ease of access which should make us cautious about ignoring the exigencies of its actual practice. In a world where the online networking language of "Leet" dominates the terms of social discourse, one is sorely tempted to use familiar words such as "like" and "friend" in too fast and loose a manner than they deserve. In doing so, we undermine the rich, powerful, spiritual meaning these words might otherwise bring to our lives. Has friendship become so easy-come-easy-go that one can even boast of having hundreds of online "friends", some of whom one has never actually met?
How different is this post-modern, hyper-digital notion of friendship from the solemn and deadly serious way that the Lord Jesus Christ framed the virtue of friendship when he said, "Greater love hath no man than when a man lays down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). What is the Lord saying, if not that a friend is one for whose sake I am to sacrifice my very life? Moreover, what is my life if not the sum total of all of those countless little pleasures, passions, and habits that distinguish what I take to be "me" in contradistinction to what I take to be "you." The consistent practice of sacrificing the objects of my self-love for the sake my friend seems to be the very essence of that most singular of Christian virtues: AGAPE! How awesome a statement about friendship it is that Jesus Christ, when framing a metaphor for the ultimate expression of Agape (God's Love), does not turn to the image of a husband and a wife, nor to that of a mother and child, nor even to that of a father for his son, as one might expect in the context of the many references to the Son and the Father in the Gospel according to St. John. No, In order to convey the proper sense of the immortal dimensions of love's greatest degree, Jesus speaks about the love between friends.
The Lord Jesus Christ summons me to put all of my preferences - all of my pet peeves and projects - and all of the quaint little things that I circumscribe in the magical circle of what I deem to be "mine" into the communal bonfire around which the Christian fellowship is gathered. By the light and warmth of this flame, my declared intention for fellowship is mystically transmuted into holy friendship, since everything that I once took for my own use and consumption - everything that I once identified as "me" - becomes a means of mutual aid and consolation in the exchange of amity and love that now constitutes "us." It is by the sacred transmutaton of an aggregation of separate individuals into the very Body of Christ that the first apostles were worthy to hear Jesus Christ declare, "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).
Have a productive and propitious week!