The Dancing Puritan

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Friendship: A Main Course in Life's Banquet

Is it vital to have friends or is friendship optional? C.S. Lewis, when comparing the esteem in which Affection or Eros are held in contrast to Friendship, writes: But very few modern people think Friendship a love of comparable value or even a love at all.  He goes on to say:

We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few 'friends.' But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceship which those who make it would describes as 'friendships' show clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with the Philia which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that Amicitia on which Cicero wrote a book. It is something quite marginal; not a main course in life's banquet; a diversion; something that fills up the chinks of one's time.

According to the Bible friendship is not to be just something that "fills up the chinks of one's time." Friendship is "a main course in life's banquet." God was man's first friend but He was not to be man's only friend. God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him (Genesis 2:18). Everything that God created was declared to be good, except the situation of Adam being alone. Being alone was not good. Therefore God remedied the not good by creating someone that would make the bad situation a good one. God made woman and brought her to the man.

Though it is sometimes the will of God for man to be alone (in the sense of remaining single instead of getting married) marriage is overwhelmingly the norm. And one of the first functions of marriage is to cure the problem of loneliness. Working the garden takes on new meaning when there is an Eve at the side of an Adam. Even when God gives the good gift of singleness, which requires a man or a woman to be alone in the sense of marriage, it is not his design that they live life alone.

From Genesis through Revelation it is obvious that we are designed to live in community with others. The New Testament describes individuals in the church as members of a body. The body is made up of various parts, and all are necessary (Ephesians 4:15-16). The parts work for the benefit of the whole. It is simply rebellion when one member of a body ignores the other members of the body. It is also foolish because when one member is out of whack, the entire body is hurt, and the one member hurts himself.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

We are an individualistic people. Such a philosophy is evident when we counsel a person, "you've got to do what is best for yourself." What about community? What about church? What about neighbors? What about extended family? What if "what is best for yourself" causes you not to consider the interests of others? What if it results in you isolating yourself from those who would lift you up and keep you warm?  Then the words of Genesis will haunt you "It is not good that the man should be alone."

You are not the whole. You are a part, a member of a community. Friendship is not an option. Nor is friendship a duty that is to be embraced with a frown. Friendship is "a main course in life's banquet."