The Cheapening of Friendship
“Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.” (First Samuel 18:3, ESV)
“I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.” (A line in King David’s lament for Saul and his son Jonathan, which he composed upon learning of their death in battle; Second Samuel 1:26, ESV)
It is my understanding that some pro-homosexual theologians have interpreted the above Scripture passages about the friendship between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan, as evidence that the two men were in a gay relationship. This kind of twisted reading of Scripture is not only evidence for how hyper-sexualized our culture has become. It is also evidence of how the concept of friendship has become radically cheapened in our culture. It seems that some just cannot imagine two persons of the same gender (especially of the male gender, so it seems) having a close, emotionally-bonding, committed friendship without such a deep personal friendship involving sexuality. Even more difficult for some to conceive is the possibility of a deep, committed, personal friendship between a man and woman who are not married to each other which is purely platonic and appropriate, free from romantic or sexual involvement.
Social media has also done a number on the concept and practice of friendship in our culture. Facebook, Twitter and other vehicles of social media can certainly be beneficial when they are used in a wholesome and self-controlled way to bolster and enhance meaningful personal relationships among family, genuine friends, and other close acquaintances, and also in helping to re-connect with old acquaintances with whom one has lost contact. But when social media contacts become a substitute for genuine, personal, face-to-face friendships, they can actually hinder genuine friendships and lead to isolation and desperate loneliness. It is quite possible to have literally hundreds of Facebook “Friends,” but no genuine personal friendships. It is possible to be very active in using social media, but at the same time desperately, painfully lonely.
Jesus Christ set the standard for genuine friendship very high: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:13-14, ESV) Jesus displayed ultimate friendship for us by laying down His life on the cross to atone for our sins. He did this for us even though we did not deserve the least of His mercies. His words indicate that true friendship involves self-sacrifice, loyalty, and commitment. Christ demonstrated God’s friendship for us by laying down His life for us. He was committed to our good, even unto death. How are we to respond to His act of friendship toward us? By demonstrating loyalty toward Him (i.e., by doing what He commands us).
Genuine friendships are difficult affairs. They involve self-sacrifice and commitment in terms of time and emotional energy. They demand that we do what is difficult for many of us — namely, be vulnerable and transparent. Such commitment and vulnerability expose us to the possibility of disappointment, embarrassment, and even the pain of rejection. Few things can be more painful than being betrayed by a close friend. Betrayal by a close friend can hurt deeply. (Jesus knew the pain of betrayal and desertion, having been betrayed by His close disciple Judas Iscariot, and having been temporarily deserted by Peter, who had denied the Lord three times during His time of greatest need – namely, His trial.) On the other hand, few things can be more meaningful and valuable than the rich treasure of a loyal, loving, committed friend. Such a treasure is rare to come by in this age of cheap Facebook “friendship.” But it is a treasure hunt worth the effort.
The Scriptures teach that in the church we believers are “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ, members together of the Family of God (for example, 1 Cor. 1:10; Rom. 12:1; etc.). Not only has Christ’s redeeming work made us spiritual “family”; He has also made us “friends” in Christ (Third John 15). By the grace of God let us strive to be a community of genuine love, Christian friendship, and wholesome relationships that we already are in principle because of Jesus’s cross and resurrection. Let us strive to “de-cheapen” the cheapened concept of friendship that prevails in ou hyper-sexualized, isolationist social media cutlure.
“Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.” (Third John 15, ESV)
For an interesting podcast on this subject of friendship (in particular, friendship amongst males or “bromances”), I would recommend the following from “Mortification of Spin”: