Consider depth of your friendships

Published 9:45 am Thursday, January 10, 2013


We tend to use that term very lightly these days. In social media connotations a “friend” is anyone who will agree by the click of a button to share information about their selves, read what you had for dinner, follow your rants and peruse your peeves, but whose genuine interest in your personal well being may be merely curious and superficial at best.

But genuine friendship is much more than a click on a keyboard, a passing wave of a hand or even a long-term involvement in a business or joint endeavor. It is far more than mere fondness or a relationship based on convenience. True friendship means genuine commitment and an abiding and unbreakable trust in one another. We may have a great many acquaintances, business partners, colleagues and such, but true friendship is a rare and precious commodity.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

If you examine any English dictionary, you will find that the word “friend” is broadly and loosely interpreted, meaning anything from the most casual of contacts to genuine care for another person. However, the word “friendship” carries with it a sense of mutual obligation, affection, and reciprocity, but most of all that of genuine trust and deep caring for the welfare and well being of the other. That same subtle shift of meaning can also be found in the Bible.

Biblical Greek is much more precise in its use of descriptive terms so there are several words that we translate into English as friend and friendship, and they all relate to how we love one another.

“Storge” refers to familial affection; “philos” refers to a higher form of love between equals and is sometimes called brotherly love; “eros” refers to passionate, physical love; and “agape” refers to deep, committed, self-sacrificial love, such as the love that God has for us. In John 15:15 Jesus tells his disciples that they are no longer servants (doulos) but are now Jesus’ close friends (philous) and that they are to love one another with the same self-sacrificial love, which Jesus has shown them. They are no longer bound to Jesus as subjects but are known as equals in the highest form of love – “agape.”

However, it is not Jesus but Paul who gives definition to what it means to truly be in friendship, one with another.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

Therefore, true friendship is based in a love for one another where trust, patience, kindness, tolerance, long-suffering and self-sacrifice filled with faith and hope are its fundamental qualities.

Over our lifetimes most of us garner a great many friends. I am especially amused by the current automobile commercial in which a young woman declares she has 4,076 “friends” with whom she is consulting with on what color car to buy. Those kinds of friends pass in and out of our lives all the time. However, those with whom we are bound in genuine friendship are part of our very being and hold places in our hearts, minds and souls which span time and distance in the most uncanny of ways. They will rush to us when we are in need (no matter what the distance or trouble required) and rejoice with us over the least joy.

That is the “agape” friendship God offers us and is willing to share with us, and which God hopes we will offer to all those around us – the never ending friendship of genuine love.

– The Reverend Dr. Michael Doty, Rector The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross