By Jordan-Mary Bellamy ’20
A few editions ago, I wrote about friendships as a means of transformation, within the context of racial reconciliation, explicitly responding to the events that took place in Charlottesville. However, in this response, I would like us to take a step back and focus on what it truly means to be a good friend. How do we encourage and exhort one another? How do we commit to one another, for one another? More importantly, how we can express the agape love to our friends as God shows us?
Given the depth of friendship, I will, in this article, conclude that at a minimum agape friendship will require commitment, trust, and frequency. I encourage you not to read this as a guide on how to make good friends, rather a guide on how to be good friends. More importantly, how we can express the agape love to our friends that God shows us. What is the “friendship treaty” for agape love?
At the Q-Union talk hosted at Gordon, titled “Healing Our Divided Nation,” New York Times columnist, David Brooks presented on the lack of commitment in our current society. He noted that we as a society have grown up being told to beat to the sound of our drum when the foundation of this nation was built on many drums. Thus, we have been indoctrinated into an “I” culture rather than a “we” culture. In regards to friendship, have we adopted this same disposition? Are we focused solely on our commitments to ourselves, when friendship depends on our ability to commit to the other? If so, how should we turn the course around? I propose that we ask ourselves if we feel responsible for our friends.
When Brooks was talking about our lack of commitment, as applied to friendship, I think he was saying that we have lost sight of our purpose. As we are all aware, Jesus had a purpose to fulfill God’s rescue plan for humanity. He took on that responsibly for us. Thus, I propose that we seek not only a commitment to the relationship, although this is important, but a responsibility for our friendships. When we have this responsibility we can develop the skills, such as making sacrifices needed to care for the friendship; this might require us to go against the message of society, to walk to the sound of our drum, and beat to the drum of our friend. Nonetheless, this approach will require us to trust our friends which leads me to the second “tenant” of friendship.
One hallmark of friendship that highlights the importance of trust is the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. When you think about it, the Son of God choose twelve teenage boys (showing how friendships can be intergenerational), that he could break bread and pray with on a daily basis. Jesus trusted his disciples to spread the Gospel and build the church. A key component of trust is the ability to balance encouragement with exhortation, while simultaneously demonstrating and receiving grace. You see, Jesus not only encouraged his disciples in their spiritual walk but also exhorted them when they did not trust him, as seen in the case of Thomas. He also evidently showed grace, such as the case when Peter began to sink because he lost faith. However, given that we live in a world that teaches us to rely on ourselves, I wonder if we know what it means to trust our friends. I believe that the disciples were able to have trust/faith in Jesus, because he was able to both encourage, exhort and continuously provide grace. However, we are not Jesus (even if we aspire to be like Him). So how can we trust each other more? I propose that to trust one another we must begin with sacrificing our desire to look perfect. In essence, we must be vulnerable enough to receive encouragement, exhortation and grace-and this will require courage.
Finally, while it might seem obvious, friendship requires both people to commit to regularly interacting with one another, to cultivate trust. This is probably why some of the deepest forms of friendship (such as marriage), are formed when you are in school. You have the opportunity to see your friend almost every day in college, so they inevitably get to walk life out with you. Frequency is the catalyst to all of the other tenants. It is the basis in which intimacy is formed. For example, the famous relationship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien who met in an English faculty meeting at Merton College. Apparently, Lewis recognized Tolkien stating in his diary “smooth pale, fluent little chap” and “no harm in him: only needs a smack or so.”I want to point out that Lewis was planning to exhort Tolkien even before their friendship. Their friendship led to them establishing the Inkling group, where they met once a week to discuss the events of their times and literature. Lewis and Tolkien’s friendship I would say inspired some of the greatest works of English literature such as Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien’s “Lord of The Rings.” Assuming that we frequently see our friends in college, I encourage us to remember to do this when we leave college. Before coming to Gordon, I was told that I would make friends here that I will keep for the rest of my life. A key to acquiring this is dependent on the time we take to be with our friends.